Rice is the staple food for more than two billion people, but a quarter of global rice production relies on rainfall rather than irrigation, so is vulnerable to the increased frequency of droughts and flooding predicted under climate change. There is an urgent need to develop rice strains that are both drought and submersion tolerant but current commercial strains have limited genetic diversity from which to generate increased environmental resilience.
The researchers will develop commercial varieties of rice carrying different segments of DNA from wild ancestors, and test how they perform in real agricultural conditions in the field in India to identify the most drought resistant varieties. The socio-economic barriers to adoption of these new varieties will also be studied, as well as their impact on the production of rice under predicted future climates. The team hope to produce drought tolerant rice varieties that are accepted and adopted by local communities in India, as well as new breeding tools to enable rapid further development of improved rice varieties.