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The road to C4 rice

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In the next 50 years, Asia’s population will increase by about 1.5 billion people. To meet higher food demand, rice yields must rise by 50% or mass malnutrition will result. Unfortunately, current breeding schemes have hit a yield barrier and climate change is starting to adversely affect growing conditions. The C4 pathway is a specialization of photosynthesis found in many cultivated tropical grass species such as maize and sugarcane. Relative to rice and other C3 plants, C4 species have double the water use efficiency, use 40% less nitrogen, and achieve 50% higher yields. Therefore, inserting the C4 pathway into rice may increase production enough to mitigate growing demand. To make C4 photosynthetic rice possible, the biology of rice must be altered by: 1) incorporating known C4 enzymes into the rice genome and characterising their effect on physiology and anatomy 2) identifying genes regulating the development of C4 anatomy and biochemistry. These lines of research are being performed in parallel in collaboration with the C4 Rice Consortium lead by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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