Rice has many fathers, but she has two mothers

Professor Robert Henry collects wild rice samples in Northern Australia. Credit: (c) University of Queensland

Researchers studying the heritage of thousands of rice species have identified only two different maternal offspring, a discovery that could help solve the global food security problem.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have studied more than 3,000 rice genotypes and found that diversity is inherited through two parental genomes identified in all rice species.

Robert Henry, a professor at UQ, a leading researcher at AQ, said the findings were important in understanding how the knot adapts to the environment.

“We thought a million years ago there were two separate marriages of virgin wild plants separated in the wild, and then in the last 7,000 years, people have been married to rice,” said Professor Henry.

The two domesticated varieties were mixed with native wild rice in Asia.

“Wild rice pollinated nearby domestic rice, and the seeds of the domesticated variety then incorporated the genetics of local wild varieties,” he said.

“The mother offspring are protected by seed, and we have found that rice growers continue to collect seeds from their fields and are very similar to local wild rice.”

Professor Henry said the findings had implications for the marriage and cultivation of rice to adapt to climate change to address food security.

“It gives us tips on how we can try to capture more of the diversity in the wild and bring it into the domestic gene pool to improve the rice crop,” he said.

“However, it points to the need to understand the importance of the maternal genotype in terms of the performance of the node, because previously we did not understand that there are two different maternal functional types.”

Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population and is the world’s third-largest agricultural product, producing more than 630 million tons.

“Now that we have a continuous collaboration with mathematicians to find and find a way to analyze rice data in more detail, we want to look at the relationships between very different subgroups,” said Professor Henry.

“This includes exploring how Basmatis and Japanese are really related and the different types of Indica paddy.”

References: “Two different chloroplast genome sequences captured in the domestic rice gene pool may be important for rice production” Ali Mohammad Moner, Agnelo Furtado and Robert J. Henry, 14 October 2020, BMC Plant Biology.
DOI: 10.1186 / s12870-020-02689-6

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