SNORKEL Genes Help Rice Plants Survive Flooded Conditions

By Allison Bond | August 21, 2009 8:58 am

The discovery of a pair of genes that prompt rice plants to grow extra-tall when submerged in water could potentially lead to new hardier varieties of rice that yield food even in flooded conditions, and could help out farmers in flood-prone nations like Thailand and Cambodia, according to a study published in Nature.

Researchers discovered a pair of genes known as SNORKEL, which spurs growth among the plants when they are completely submerged, allowing the plants to survive by keeping their leaf tops above the water. As water levels rise, accumulation of the plant hormone ethylene activates the SNORKEL genes, making stem growth more rapid. When the researchers introduced the genes into rice that does not normally survive in deep water, they were able to rescue the plants from drowning [AP].

There are already strains of rice that can survive waterlogged conditions such as those that affect about a quarter of the world’s rice-producing land. The flood-hardy plants, however, often produce only one-quarter to one-third of the crop that can be harvested from higher-yielding plants.

Adding the SNORKEL gene to high-yielding rice plants could potentially result in rice crops that can both survive flooding and produce an abundance of food. “It’s hoped that the findings will help researchers to breed rice that can be grown in lowland areas that are frequently flooded during the rainy season” [Reuters], the authors wrote. Still, these new, hardier rice plants would need to undergo rigorous testing before widespread use to ensure they pose no unintended side effects for consumers.

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Video: M. Ashikari

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Health & Medicine
  • potsy

    Wow! another GMO, and another 10 million open mouths.. I wonder if there is a gene for decreasing libido.

  • JustinTheOregonian

    Gotta agree with potsy. All we are doing by increasing food supply is fueling chronic famine, and setting up an eventual disaster. Food production increases need to be coupled with serious attempts at limiting population growth in chronically hungry areas

  • http://clubneko.net robot makes music

    Hello trolls.

  • addicted to bad

    Increasing the education level in an underdeveloped area decreases the number of children born per household.

  • Astounded

    Man this is extraordinary. (1) This is not a GMO, it is a gene. Selection of natural populations might well reveal a way of introducing this to crop varieties and thus relieve crop failure and hunger; (2) the science is extraordinarily clever and information is surely better than ignorance. Would Potsy (or was that Potty?) and Justin prefer we concentrated on defence research? and (3) what exactly are they doing to change the course of humanity? Sure, we all know that restraint in human population is essential but the benefits of food security are not to expand population but rather to buy time to achieve stability. If this cannot be achieved, we are all doomed and the tiny amount of funding spent of agricultural research will not matter anyway.

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