Applying advances in genomics to accelerate rice improvement
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In the U.S., rice is grown on an average of 2.6M acres producing approximately 10M tons of grain per year, equivalent to $3.6B in market value, largely in the southern states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Texas. Rice is an important component of a healthy diet, and it is a key to maintaining global food security. A number of challenges, however, face rice production both in the U.S. and around the world, including constraints in water supplies, emerging pests and diseases, increasing costs of inputs, and plateauing yields. At the same time, environmentally sustainable ways need to be found to produce enough food for 9.6 billion people by 2050 without converting additional land to rice production. There are also several areas where the nutritional content and healthiness of rice can be further improved. Thankfully, recent scientific advances in rice research and new plant breeding technologies now provide faster and more powerful ways to develop higher yielding, stress tolerant and more nutritious rice varieties.This project will take advantage of the latest advances in rice genetics, whole genome sequencing, and information technology to better explore the wealth of biodiversity available in rice and its wild relatives and identify new genes for rice improvement. It will leverage recent investments in plant genomics and work closely with rice breeders to bridge the gaps between genetic resources and plant breeding, between genomic discovery and application, and between the US and global rice research communities. The approaches will include testing exotic rice accessions, mapping novel genes, analyzing DNA sequence data, developing new pre-breeding materials, and helping rice breeders use the latest molecular marker technologies to speed up the process to develop improved rice varieties. The ultimate goals of the project will be to increase the competitiveness of US rice on the global market through lower production costs and superior grain quality, to improve the nutritional quality of rice for improved healthiness of rice consumers, to work with international partners to help secure a stable supply of rice around the world in the face of future constraints, and to support more environmentally sustainable methods of rice production.