MJ 1-3 - Flood-tolerant rice as an example of the potential impact of plant biology research

Saturday, July 14
2:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Rice is one of the major world staple crops, cultivated on a massive scale, and primary calorie source of the poor. Discoveries in basic plant biology can have major impacts even if they confer relatively small advantages to the plant. Submergence stress effects less than 10% of world rice production but is still estimated to result in billion-dollar losses annually. Detailed studies of traditional rice germplasm allowed scientists to identify a few varieties with of a high level of tolerance. However, successful use of this knowledge occurred only after the SUB1 gene was mapped and marker assisted backcrossing could be applied. This approach can allow rapid introgression of a trait into a popular variety without changing its other properties. Sub1 varieties were shown to have 1-3 t/ha yield advantages over susceptible varieties when flooding occurred. This encouraged rapid scale up and cultivation by millions of farmers. Current discoveries should allow us to solve more intractable problems; for example, develop varieties with higher yield, tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses, improved cooking and nutritional quality, and reduced impacts on the environment. However, partnerships among plant biologists, field breeders, and other agricultural scientists need to be increased for translating these discoveries into improvements for farmers.


David Mackill

Adjunct Professor
University of California, Davis

David J. Mackill is currently Senior Director for Genetics and Breeding, Cocoa R&D, Mars Wrigley Confectionary, and an Adjunct Professor in the Plant Sciences Department at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Mackill holds a PhD in Genetics from UC Davis. He was Principal Scientist, Rainfed Lowlands Program leader and Head of the Plant Breeding Genetics and Biotechnology Division at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) during 2001 to 2011. He has developed over 20 rice varieties and published research on the genetics of resistance to rice blast disease and submergence and drought tolerance. He and his colleagues identified a gene from traditional rice varieties that conferred tolerance to 2 weeks or more submergence. This gene, designated SUB1, was bred into several high-yielding varieties. The resulting submergence-tolerant varieties have been adopted by several million farmers since 2009. In addition to his leadership and research work, he has supervised the thesis research of 22 graduate students. He also served as the Secretary General of the Society for Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) and then Vice President. He is Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and Honorary Fellow of the Crop Science Society of the Philippines. He is recipient of the Award of Distinction from the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; National Research Initiative Discovery Award (USDA) for discovery of the SUB1 gene; and Tech Award Laureate for International Development.


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MJ 1-3 - Flood-tolerant rice as an example of the potential impact of plant biology research

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