Researchers Pin Down Rice Genome

Map-based rice genome will act as a powerful tool for future breeding in other crops. Compiled by staff

Published on: Aug 12, 2005

The 10-nation International Rice Genome Sequencing Project now has a highly accurate, or "finished," map-based DNA sequence of the entire rice genome, according to Nature.

This will be a powerful tool for future crop breeding since other grass crops can benefit from the rice genome information - including corn, wheat, barley, rye, sorghum and millet.

The completed rice genome, which reveals some 37,500 genes on the 12 chromosomes of rice, offers the raw material for many studies aiming to boost crop yields for this key food source. Researchers say the study revealed "thousands" of genetic markers, or signposts that can be put to use by plant breeders right away.

This is the first completed genome sequence researchers have for any crop plant. The sequence built upon earlier draft sequences published by Monsanto and Syngenta. Both companies donated their work on the genome to the international project.

Corn producers push for corn genome completion

On the heels of the breakthrough news of the completion of the genetic map of the rice plant, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is advocating harder than ever for funding to finish the mapping of the corn genome.

"This is an exciting day for all of agriculture," said June Silverberg, NCGA director of public policy. "With the rice plant mapping complete, we can now look toward finalizing the sequence of the corn genome and continue the pursuit for research in maize traits. NCGA has long supported and been heavily involved in research and development for new uses of agricultural crops like corn. It continues to be a key priority for NCGA."

NCGA spearheaded the creation the National Plant Genome Initiative, which is managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and supported by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to enhance the understanding of the structure and function of all plant genes at all levels, which will directly impact the production of major food crops.

According to NCGA, the corn genome will have significant benefits that will be felt throughout the world. The potential benefits include: agronomic value (physical resistance, stress tolerance and yield) and improved outputs (chemical/industrial, feed, human food and pharmaceutical).

These advances should also have the larger effects of: increasing production efficiency by 20% over the next 10 years; adding at least $4 billion in increased farm value per year; move the nation toward a self-reliant bio-based economy, decreasing the need for foreign oil; and increased sustainability of agriculture.

Earlier this summer the House passed the appropriations bill with funding requests for NSF programs, including the corn genome. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed their bill, which also included funding for the corn genome, but the bill has not been voted on in the full Senate.

NCGA is continuing its directive to secure more funding for the plant genome projects and has encouraged corn growers to talk to their senators, urging support for the project funding and asking legislators to bring the appropriations bill to the floor for a final vote.