Scientists want to keep rice hot even in cold temperatures
Scientists are close to developing new rice varieties that can withstand the cold, which damages the crop and leads to low yields, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said Tuesday, DPA reported.
The Philippines-based institute said its scientists had identified genes that would make rice more tolerant to the cold, and were in the process of testing new cold-tolerant varieties in South Korea and Bangladesh.
"Cold tolerance is a complex trait; it is controlled by many different genes," Kshirod Kumar Jena, IRRI country representative to South Korea, told the institute's publication Rice Today.
Jena said scientists have already identified genes linked to cold tolerance and have began modifying rice varieties to incorporate the traits that would protect seed fertility despite low temperatures.
He noted that cold temperature is one of the major stresses in rice production, adding that the cold weather hinders rice plants from forming fertile pollen which leads to failure to produce grains.
The institute noted that in Vietnam, a 30-day cold spell in February 2008 destroyed more than 53,000 hectares of rice plants. In China, the recorded yield loss per year because of cold is between 3 million and 5 million tons.
Data from South Korea showed that marked temperature drops in the past damaged up to 80 per cent of its total rice area, the institute added.
IRRI noted that even tropical countries such as the Philippines and Thailand would benefit from cold-tolerant varieties that could be planted by highland farmers when temperatures drop during the cold season.
Scientists at the institute are also developing varieties that can survive floods and droughts to ensure a steady supply of rice, which is consumed by more than one half of the world's population.