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Breakthrough in raising rice yield

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Shastry V Mallady

Seeds to be handed over to TNAU for field trials

MADURAI: A genetically modified White Ponni rice variety promising high yield and disease resistance developed by Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) is all set for field trials by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

The Department of Plant Biotechnology of MKU has claimed a major breakthrough in research.

The seeds would be sent to the TNAU for the next stage of "limited and expanded" field trials.

Laboratory success had been encouraging in the branch of genomics and the modified variety would take care of yield, disease resistance and tolerance of drought conditions, K. Veluthambi, Principal Investigator and Professor in School of Biotechnology at MKU, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

A team from the agricultural university visited the Plant Tissue Culture Facility in MKU where the plants were scientifically grown under `Green House' conditions, last week.

According to Dr. Veluthambi, the prime advantage of the introduction of modified genes in rice plant was that it prevented the most prevalent Sheath Blight disease among paddy crop in the State.

Pointing out that this disease was widespread in rice grown areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, he said the anti-fungal genes were introduced in plants so that they could defend themselves from fungal attack.

The grownup plants are now kept at the Transgenic Green House on the university campus after the completion of genetic engineering process. To get into collaboration with the TNAU for taking this research project to the next stage, Dr. Veluthambi said, the Department of Plant Biotechnology of the MKU had already applied for permission from a Government of India agency, Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation, in the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

If Sheath Blight disease strikes in rice crop, the plant becomes brown and does not flower, thereby drastically bringing down the yield. Funding for the project first came from the Rockfeller Foundation, USA, and subsequently from DBT.

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