USA- The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced a US$10 million grant to help researchers led by Louisiana State University (LSU) develop a drought-resistant rice variety that conserves natural resources.
In this research, Manas Gartia, a mechanical engineering associate professor at LSU, is collaborating with 24 researchers from five states under the leadership of Prasanta Subudhi, professor of the LSU AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences, to develop a new type of rice.
The US Department of Agriculture predicts that the United States will produce 6.12 million tonnes of rice in the marketing year 2023-24, with 2.35 million tonnes slated for export, and could benefit from this research very soon.
Louisiana is a strategic location for rice research, being the nation’s third-largest rice-producing state behind Arkansas and California, thanks to its warm climate, abundant water, and water-retaining clay soils.
“Over the last 40 years, land-use efficiency for US rice has increased by 39% while water and energy use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and soil losses have declined by 28% to 52%. Nonetheless, many of the rice production practices used in the US are still resource-intensive,” Gartia remarked.
For example, according to Gartia, the season-long flood irrigation used in rice production contributes to the reduced underground water table, increased groundwater salinity, contamination of air and water, and GHG emission.
“The US rice industry has set ambitious goals of increasing land-use efficiency by 10% and reducing water and energy use, GHG emissions, and soil losses by 8% to 13% by 2030,” he said.
“This proposal is developed to accomplish these sustainability goals in the US rice production system and is based on two hypotheses.”
The first theory that underpins this proposed research is that developing new rice varieties with better adaptation to climate variabilities and implementing innovative crop management practices can enhance the sustainability and profitability of rice production systems.
The second theory is that implementing education and outreach extension programs will expedite the adoption of climate-resilient rice management systems by growers in the southern US.
Gartia’s role will be part of the first hypothesis, where he will study the phenotype and molecular changes in rice due to various stresses such as salt, drought, water, and heat and identify the genes responsible for that behavior.
Upon the identification of those genes, rice with that particular trait can be grown under drought conditions.