Improving Rice Abiotic Stress Tolerance
Abiotic stresses such as drought, soil salinization and temperature extremes are the most
important factors limiting crop yields worldwide. Impending climate change threatens to
exacerbate the impact of abiotic stresses and jeopardize future food supplies. Despite
intense effort, plant breeders have had difficulty in breeding for improved abiotic stress
tolerance. In addition, plant biologists have only an incomplete understanding of the
genes underlying crops abilities to withstand these stresses.
Arcadia Biosciences has developed a TILLING population resource for rice. TILLING
(Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes) is a novel, non-transgenic target-selected
mutation breeding method, invented by one of the principal scientists at Arcadia
Biosciences, that permits the generation and identification of new alleles in genes
hypothesized to underlie traits of interest.
Using this rice TILLING resource, we have identified a premature stop mutation in a
candidate gene whose inactivation may lead to improvement in rice abiotic stress
tolerance. During Phase I research, we intend to test the hypothesis that knockout of this
candidate gene leads to improvement in rice abiotic stress tolerance. If successful, this
new allele will be introgressed into elite rice cultivars in phase II, with the ultimate aim
of developing novel cultivars with sustained yield under stress. Finally, this research may
have implications for improving abiotic stress tolerance in other monocot crops such as
wheat and maize.
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