Nav: Home

Breeding better Brazilian rice

June 06, 2018

Outside Asia, no other country produces as much rice as does Brazil. It is the ninth largest rice producer in the world. Average annual yields are close to 15 million tons.

Rice production in Brazil is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly.

Given the importance of rice farming in Brazil, researchers are working to develop improved rice varieties.

"We are looking for rice varieties that satisfy farmers, the industry, and consumers," says researcher Ariano Martins de Magalhães Jr.

A new study explores the progress the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) has made over the last 45 years. Crop breeders developed rice varieties with higher yields and improved sustainability. Magalhães is one of the Embrapa authors of the study.

"We test whether the methods used in the breeding programs are helping us reach our goals," he says. "The study will also help us strategically develop and release new varieties in the future."

According to the study, the Embrapa breeding program has resulted in significant yield gains. Over 45 years, grain yield improved between 0.62-0.73% each year. That translates to thousands of pounds in increased yield for farmers.

The breeding program has also developed rice varieties with reduced plant height and time to flowering.

"Plant height is an important factor for rice crops," says Magalhães. "This plant architecture (shorter plants) allowed rice yield potential to double by the end of the 1970s." In 1972, the average plant was about 38 inches tall. By 2016, average plant height was about 32.5 inches.

Breeders also aimed to reduce time to flowering for rice varieties. "Early-flowering varieties are desirable because they need less water and other resources," says Magalhães. "These varieties also allow more flexibility in planting and harvesting."

According to the study, flowering time was reduced by about 9 days over 45 years. It took 97 days for half the rice crop to flower in 1972. In 2016, half the crop was flowering in 88 days.

The researchers also showed that rice varieties that mature quicker could be high-yielding. "Previously, the paradigm was that rice varieties that took longer to mature would have higher yields," Magalhães says. "In this study, it is evident that some varieties, which mature in 118 days, are more productive than some older varieties that mature in 130 days."

Researchers also look for rice varieties that use natural resources, such as water, more efficiently.

That's important because more than 70% of rice grown in Brazil is irrigated. Two southern states, including Rio Grande do Sul, account for most of the irrigated rice production.

"Rice varieties that need lower inputs can bring sustainability," says Magalhães.

Forty-five years is a long time, but Magalhães says the length of the study is important. "We are testing whether plant-breeding efforts have been efficient or not through the years. The longer the time frame analyzed, the more robust the data and findings."

Having dependable, robust data is important. "Plant breeding is an expensive process," says Magalhães. "It requires time, hard work, and investment."

Each error in the decision-making process can lead to huge losses for stakeholders. Mistakes may be irreversible in a short time span. "It is extremely important to monitor the efficiency of breeding programs," says Magalhães. "That way we can critically analyze our progress. We can also plan novel actions and strategies to develop and release new cultivars."

Read more about this work in Crop Science. Antonio Costa de Oliveira also worked on the project, a collaboration with researchers at the Federal University of Pelotas.
-end-


American Society of Agronomy

Related Rice Articles:

High-protein rice brings value, nutrition
A new advanced line of rice, with higher yield, is ready for final field testing prior to release.
Rice plants engineered to be better at photosynthesis make more rice
A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27 percent, according to a study publishing January 10, 2019 in the journal Molecular Plant.
Can rice filter water from ag fields?
While it's an important part of our diets, new research shows that rice plants can be used in a different way, too: to clean runoff from farms before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams.
Rice plants evolve to adapt to flooding
Although water is essential for plant growth, excessive amounts can waterlog and kill a plant.
Breeding better Brazilian rice
Rice production in Brazil is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly.
Breakthrough in battle against rice blast
Scientists have found a way to stop the spread of rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30% of the world's rice crop each year.
More rice, please: 13 rice genomes reveal ways to keep up with ever-growing population
Rice provides 20% of daily calories consumed globally. We will need more as population grows toward 9-10 billion by 2050.
Ancient rice heralds a new future for rice production
Growing in crocodile infested billabongs in the remote North of the country, Australia's wild rice has been confirmed as the most closely related to the ancient ancestor of all rices.
2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice
Rice University materials scientists replace all the atoms on top of a three-layer, two-dimensional crystal to make a transition-metal dichalcogenide with sulfur, molybdenum and selenium.
Multi-nutrient rice against malnutrition
ETH researchers have developed a new rice variety that not only has increased levels of the micronutrients iron and zinc in the grains, but also produces beta-carotene as a precursor of vitamin A.
More Rice News and Rice Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.