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Crop Biotech Update

Japanese Scientists Create Salt Resistant Rice

May 18, 2012

Researchers at Riken Nishina Centre for Accelerator-Based Science in Saitama, Japan are now working to develop a salt tolerant rice with the help of physics. Dr. Abe's team use a particle accelerator to bombard them with heavy ions—large atoms that have been stripped down to their nuclei by the removal of their electrons. This process produces 10-100 times as many mutations as the traditional method, and increases the chances of producing useful ones.

The research team's study was motivated by the seawater flooding of more than 24,000 hectares of farmland by the 2011 tsunami. Salt tolerant rice, though, will be of wider use globally than just restoring the worst-affected rice paddies in Japan. About a third of the world's rice paddies have salt problems, and yields in such fields are only half of what would be harvested in fresh water.

Results from the first batch of 600 seeds that were bombarded with carbon ions showed 250 plants thriving and produced healthy seeds themselves. The next stage would be to take 50 grains from each of the successful plants then repeat the process with them. The best plants will then be used for crossbreeding. Dr. Abe hopes that they will be able to produce a salt tolerant rice variety and have it ready for the market in four years.

Read more about this research at http://www.economist.com/node/21554169.