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Waterproof Rice Survives Flooding
Izah Morales
Philippine Daily Inquirer


Rainy season is here again. The crops, trees, and plants would gladly bathe under the showers of rain. However, when typhoons strike and floods flow like a river, the trees would sway and dance in a fast forward rhythm and plants may drown and die.
But among the plants, one variety of rice can survive flooding. This rice variety is named sub1 or submergence1, according to Dr. Dave Mackill, head of the plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Mackill and other researchers from IRRI and the University of California in Riverside and in Davis campuses have discovered from an Indian rice variety FR13A a gene that can withstand flooding of up to 17 days.

You can watch a time-lapse video of the rice variety from this IRRI website.

When water does not drain in a couple of days, an ordinary rice crop would be damaged, Mackill said, as he stressed that producing the sub1 variety will be relevant and helpful to farmers.

"Having this gene in the [rice] variety gives the plant a little bit of protection against flooding and gives the farmers some insurance policy," the IRRI scientists said

He said farmers need not worry about the number of rice yield. Flooding is even beneficial to the sub1 variety of rice, which produces five tons for each hectare submerged for 17 days.

An ordinary rice variety without the sub1 gene produces less than one ton per hectare, he added.

However, there are slight differences in the physical property of a sub1 rice variety, he said.

It is shorter, flowers later, and the whole color changes more than ordinary varieties. The whole of a SWARNA sub1 rice variety also becomes lighter compared to an ordinary SWARNA variety, which is usually dark.

Mackill said there are no big differences in the taste of the sub1 rice variety compared with other varieties.

"I've only tasted IR64 sub1. It tastes pretty good. But we haven't made a detailed comparison of all the varieties," said Mackill.

IRRI has been distributing the seeds to farmers for small scale testing. The seeds may be officially released to some countries next year, said Mackill.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, "climate change is the most critical global challenges of our time," and thus abrupt weather changes can affect agriculture, sea-level rise, and species extinction.

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