Researchers in Japan and China have identified in separate studies a gene in rice that appears to control grain yield, they reported May 25.
Some experts say crop yields need to double by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population and enhancing crop production is viewed as an important solution.
Led by Motoyuki Ashikari at Nagoya University’s Bioscience and Biotechnology Centre in Nagoya, Japan, researchers looked for the gene that differentiated the high-yielding ST-12 rice type from Nipponbare, a low-yielding type.
“Both (rice types) have the OsSPL14 gene … but (the gene) expression in ST-12 is 10 times higher than in Nipponbare. This gene in ST-12 triggers far more (of a certain) protein that results in higher yields,” he said by telephone.
He said his team inserted the OsSPL14 gene from ST-12 into Nipponbare and yields increased significantly.
In the Chinese study, researchers introduced the OsSPL14 gene into Xiushui 11, a rice variety cultivated in southern China, and found it increased yields by about 10 per cent.
“Taken together, our findings show that OsSPL14 may help facilitate the genetic engineering and molecular breeding of elite rice varieties with ideal plant architecture to reach much higher yield potential,” wrote the Chinese researchers.