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Super rice

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To assure food security in the rice-consuming countries of the world, those countries will have to produce 50% more rice with improved quality to meet consumers’ demand by 2025. This additional rice will have to be produced on less land with less water, less labor, and fewer chemicals. The task becomes even more difficult when rice quality preferences gradually receive more attention. Crop improvement and management have played an important role in increasing the production of major food crops in the past. There is no doubt that the task of making gains becomes even more difficult when rice yield is already at the high level. IRRI is currently working on a new plant type to address some of the shortfalls of the once prized IR8 variety. It's optimistically been dubbed "Super Rice". IRRI started work on this highly productive rice five or six years ago. They sought new parents, or sources of germplasm, to build a plant with an entirely different architecture. It has fewer but stronger stems or tillers and there are many more seeds on each rice flower or inflorescence. In the old IR8 plant, half of the plant's weight is grain and half is straw, whereas the new Super Rice plant is 60% grain and 40% straw. So more energy goes into grain production, increasing yield potential by about 20%. The Super Rice also has a vigorous root system, and IRRI scientists are working on improving its resistance to disease and insects.

     However, developing a new rice plant to save half the world from starvation is not all smooth sailing. The scientists at IRRI have encountered many problems in the development of Super Rice. For instance, most current high-yielding rice varieties produce around 100 grains per panicle. The prototype Super Rice, on the other hand, produced 250 to 300 grains per panicle, which was too many. The plant simply couldn't supply enough carbohydrates and nutrients to fill the grains. The breeders overcame the problem by reducing the number of grains back to 200, which still makes Super Rice twice as productive as older plant types.

Scientists are also trying to improve the Super Rice grain quality by incorporating genes for disease and insect resistance. IRRI expects that the finished product will be ready by the turn of the century.




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