Saving life, saving rice

Rice is one of the most important food crops of the world. The yield potential has been increasing over many years starting from miracle rice IR8. It is not just yield, but also other constraints that affect yield, that is, biotic and abiotic factors such as Swarna-Sub1, etc., were being fixed with innovations. However, with the growing population and a changing climate, yield gap is increasing. To fix this, continuous reinvention is a necessity.

A current development area in rice, that is, the Green Super Rice (GSR), has already been streamlined, and there are those in the pipeline such as C4 rice, that also has a role to play in the future. Yield is expected to almost double with these upcoming innovations. Green Super Rice varieties have already been at multilocation trials and have enormous scope as a hardy crop that can cope with extreme vagaries of climate that may be either direct (abiotic stresses such as drought, floods, heat, and cold, etc.) or indirect (insect pest damage). The aim of identifying location-specific GSR varieties through location-specific trials can address the problems of climate as well as yield deficits. This can act as a contingency cushion until the C4 rice project gets streamlined. The scientists of IRRI by this way are coordinating with the C4 rice consortium to innovate without any gap of scientific support that is extended to the rice farmers across the globe. This is in fact, a great mastermind of setting parallel goals on track, having short-term and long-term plans.

The scope of this C4 rice is unimaginable. It can give a new start for scientific research in developing yield potential. There can be a bigger leap in productivity increments compared to that of existing rice varieties. We can further go for high-yielding varieties and hybrids using C4 rice varieties. So, indirectly, this can become the new generation of rice genotypes to fight hunger and malnutrition. This can also effectively address the food requirements of an exploding population. This can also give a new area to start research for upcoming scientists.

Furthermore, the other side of this most important innovation is protection from global warming. It was concluded from the last climate summit conducted that Southeast Asian countries, especially those growing rice under puddled conditions (low land rice), have been greatly responsible for methane emissions and thereby, global warming. Through this C4 rice, not just one wasteful process, that is, reducing carbon fixation (photorespiration), is fixed, but the related forward linkage problems of methane emissions can also be greatly reduced. This is what is the other side of the coin is.

So, overall, to conclude, upcoming innovations in rice research have a multifaceted package of benefits such as breaking yield plateaus, achieving yield bonanzas, protection from climate change, and preventing global warming, etc. Thus, the future of rice research is establishing peace and harmony by protecting the environment and its population and assuring food security and an eco-friendly climate.

Note: The views and opinions on this essay are those of the author's and do not reflect those of the institute and its partners.

Srijan AmbatiSrijan Ambati

Srijan Ambati is currently pursuing his PhD at PJTSAU, Hyderabad. He was also awarded with DST-INSPIRE fellowship for his PhD program from Ministry of Science & Technology, GOI. He has publications in NAAS rated peer-reviewed international journals as well as book chapters to his credit.