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 communications specialist with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

coss@umn.edu

Latest Blog Posts

Garments in the Wearable Technology Lab

The World’s Most Innovative Universities ranks the institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies, and power new industries.

Read More
Categories:
MnDRIVE logo over regents seal photo

For over five years, MnDRIVE has aligned U research strengths with vital and emerging state industries to help foster a more prosperous and equitable future.

Read More
Categories:
Woman showing fear, anxiety

Anxiety disorders can make the cues that trigger fear overly broad, causing people to change their day-to-day behavior even when there's no imminent threat.

Read More
Close-up view of earthworms in a chunk of soil

Research suggests conservation efforts that neglect earthworms, which help regulate water and nutrient flows at the base of ecosystems, could backfire.

Read More