Research has suggested that the waterlogged soil used for rice paddies emits 17 percent of the total amount of methane in the world. This represents 100 million tons each year. Even though compared to carbon dioxide methane is found in lower quantities experts say that it is 20 times more responsible for trapping heat when compared to other gases. So researchers have come up with the idea of developing GMO rice, which does not emit methane.
This was possible with the joint effort of researchers from the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China’s Hunan Agricultural University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Department of energy. The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.
The new genetically modified strain of rice, called SUSIBA2, was created by adding another gene to common rice. The gene which was added was extracted from barley. The NGO rice which resulted is a plant which can nourish its leaves, grains and stems better and also prevent microbes which produce methane from feeding on it. This makes is the first low-methane but at the same time starch-rich rice which could be a good solution for reducing greenhouse gas emission.
To test the new invention the researchers introduced the NGO rice into a regular rice variety in order to see how it will perform in comparison with a rice strain which was not modified. Chinese researchers have conducted field studies for three years and it was proved that SUBSIBA1 rice indeed produced more crops without emitting methane.
Christer Jansson from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (the Department of Energy) said that it was a long needed measure to produce starch-rich rice with a low emission of methane, but scientists were not able to develop it so far. Even in the case of this study the researchers spent over ten years to finally reach this result.
As the population of the world increases, Jansson warns that the demand for rice will increase along with it. In addition rice paddies will become warmer because of the global warming. So these problems should be dealt with in the future. The researchers will continue studying the SUSIBA2 rice strain looking at the mechanism required to allocate carbon in plant cultivation.
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