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“Wild” genes open up opportunities for better rice varieties

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The genomes of seven wild rice varieties have been completed, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Published in Nature Genetics, the study details the generation of seven wild and two cultivated genomes (IR8 and N22). IR8, more popularly known as “miracle rice,” was developed by IRRI scientists and was one of the rice varieties that ushered in the Green Revolution in Asia during the 1960s and relieved worldwide famine.

“The completed sequencing of the seven wild rice varieties is a significant progress to drive further genome evolution and domestication,” explained Dr. Rod Wing, one of the lead scientists in the study. He added that wild relatives of rice continue to be an important reservoir for crop improvement as they are adapted to different biogeographic ranges and can tolerate many biotic and abiotic stresses.

Dr. Ruaraidh Hamilton, IRRI lead scientist for genetic diversity and head of IRRI Genebank welcomes this breakthrough. “This opens doors for rice breeders to harness genes from the wild relatives of rice, allowing us to improve crops with traits that are preferred by farmers and consumers. It will also bring us steps closer to our goal of ensuring global food and nutrition security through sustainable rice production,” he said.

For more details, read the IRRI media release.

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