Skip to Content

Research Supercharges Rice to Meet Growing Demand

Farm laborers plant rice seedlings in Thailand

Rice production is projected to fall almost 400 million tons short of demand by 2050. With half the world’s population relying on this staple crop, the shortfall is a serious threat.

Now, a consortium of researchers from 12 laboratories across eight countries has successfully tweaked the genetic code of rice in the first step toward creating a species that can grow higher yields without any additional water. MIT Technology Review recently recognized the accomplishment as one of its ten Breakthrough Technologies of 2015. Among the researchers was Daniel Voytas, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Genome Engineering and a professor in the College of Biological Sciences. Voytas is an expert on targeted genome modification in plants — the practice of altering a specific part of a plant’s genetic code to change its physical characteristics.

Through its research, the consortium engineered rice to use a form of super-efficient photosynthesis — the process that lets plants draw energy from sunlight — in addition to its normal, less efficient version. This form, called C4 photosynthesis,  boosts plant growth by better capturing and concentrating carbon dioxide in the leaves’ cells.

Building off the discovery, researchers hope to continue to modify the rice genome so that it exclusively uses C4 photosynthesis, leading to higher yields at the cost of no additional growing resources. Scientists also hope to engineer this type of photosynthesis into many other crops, including wheat, potatoes and soybeans.

See more about the breakthrough in MIT Technology Review.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer and public relations associate with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Latest Blog Posts

Opioid pills on a table next to pill bottle

Using a combination of brain stimulation and cognitive exercises, MnDRIVE Brain Conditions researchers aim to improve people's recovery from drug addiction and guard against relapse.

Read More
State fair goers

The modern design of the new Driven to Discover Research Facility will connect Minnesota State Fair visitors with more ways to participate in University research.

Read More
Schilling Alaskan Paper Birch tree with white rot

U researchers' work in understanding how different fungi rot trees will help climate modelers predict changes in terrestrial and atmospheric carbon pools.

Read More
Aerial view of farms

New research projects underway within University of Minnesota Extension aim to support the prosperity of rural areas across the state.

Read More