Superstrains of Rice That Will Feed A Changing World

Monday, December 19, 2016

“I’m Swamp Girl,” says Indrastuti Rumanti, a bubbly scientist with the Indonesian Center for Rice Research. She’s just ducked out of a lengthy meeting with her fellow rice-heads here in Bogor, but the conference room is not Rumanti’s preferred habitat: She’d rather be mucking about in experimental rice paddies.

“Farmers in those areas are more traditional, still very pure and have a big dedication to their land,” she says. “I would like to help them.” Her other goal? Feeding Asia.

How those small farmers harvest their swamps will have a global ripple effect. Rumanti and other scientists are at the forefront of a new revolution in rice, developing breeds designed to feed an ever-hungrier population that’s expected to hit 10 billion by 2060. They are the intellectual heirs of scientists in the first Green Revolution, which began in the 1960s and relied on fertilizers, pesticides and high-yield varieties to triple yields in Asia, outpacing the continent’s population growth.

In recent years, though, those gains have stalled, and the current crop of rice researchers is fighting a new enemy: climate change. The warming planet brings not just heat and drought, but also floods, salinity, disease and toxic soils. The weapon of choice in Green Revolution 2.0? Gene splicing and selective breeding.

Source: Ozy (link opens in a new window)

Agriculture, Health Care