Changing climactic conditions such as drought and heat stress are a major threat to rice crops, incomes and food security in South East Asia. Stomata on the surface of leaves allow gas exchange between plants and the atmosphere, and regulate water loss and temperature.
This Newton Fund collaboration aims to identify and create rice cultivars with altered requirements for water or with enhanced heat tolerance that are suitable as crops for Thailand. It is part of the Newton Fund UK-China-Philippines-Thailand-Vietnam collaborative research programme. They are screening thousands of Thai rice cultivars and mutants to identify plants with altered number or size of stomata that could be grown in drier or hotter areas. Other screenings will aid Thailand in developing new rice varieties with additional traits such as enhanced nutrition and low glycaemic index.
The researchers have built links to internationally regarded rice researchers in the Philippines and China, filed a patent in the area, and provided employment and training for Thai workers and information for farmers. The Kasetsart research group holds workshops for local farmers about developments in rice breeding, and to help identify priority targets for crop improvement.
“My researchers are delighted to be working alongside Thai scientists to improve rice drought tolerance and enhance food security. We have already learnt so much from working together.”
Professor Julie Gray
Climate Ready Rice – Optimising Transpiration to Protect Rice Yields under Abiotic Stresses
Lead PI: Professor Julie Gray, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield, UK
Lead PI: Dr Apichart Vanavichit, Rice Gene Discovery Unit at Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand
Lead PI: Professor W. Paul Quick, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines
Project partners: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
National Science and Technology Development Agency, Thailand