Scientists have successfully used genetic modification (GM) to improve the salt tolerance of rice, often grown on salty soil.
“Rice is the staple food for billions of people around the world,” says Darren Plett, who led the study. “Rice is often grown on land that is prone to high levels of salinity. Lands that accumulate salt have lower crop yields.”
“This has made salinity tolerance an increasingly important factor in the efforts to secure global food production,” says Mr. Plett, a research associate with the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG), in a media release.
The research team has used a new GM technique to trap salt in the root of the rice plant, reducing the amount of toxic salt building up in the plant and increasing its tolerance to salinity, reports the journal Public Library of Science ONE.
This new research into rice builds on previous work into the salt tolerance of plants led by scientists from the ACPFG. It has been conducted with scientists now based in universities in Cairo, Copenhagen and Melbourne.
Mr. Plett says the new GM technique is an “efficient and robust bio-technological approach” in helping rice grow in saline conditions.
Work is now underway to transfer the technology to wheat and barley.