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Jun 3, 2010

Rice Researchers Focus On African Rice Biodiversity

Rice field planed to NERICA varieties in Western Africa
Photo: Africa Rice Center
On 18 June 2010 SciDev.Net reported on the research being conducted by scientists at the Consultative Agricultural Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) on the unique properties of indigenous African rice varieites.

In 2009, scientists CGIAR and AfricaRice concluded in a report that "the yield of African rice is not inferior to that of Asian rice under the unfavourable growth conditions that often prevail in parts of Africa."

As background, "African rice — Oryza glaberrima — was first domesticated in West Africa more than 3,000 years ago. Now it is on the verge of extinction and most African farmers have turned to Asian rice (O. sativa)."

Twenty years ago, CGIAR scientists hybridized New Rice for Africa (NERICA) from African and Asian varieites.  Since then NERICA has been further hybridized into 80 different varieties.  According to Semon Mande a researchers at the Africa Rice Center, these "NERICA varieties were developed from just a handful of O. glaberrima parents."

In a recent press release, AfricaRice announced that "it has nearly 2,500 samples of O. glaberrima preserved in the gene bank" and that "most of its wealth of genetic diversity remains to be tapped".

New African rice varieties hybridized as part of the 2009 report are currently being evaluated in fields near the Danyi plateau in Togo

For more see: Sissoko, Bande Moussa.  "African rice gets a status upgrade," SciDev.Net, 3 June 2010.

New Breeding Directions at AfricaRice: Beyond Nerica.  Cotonou, Benin: AfricaRice, 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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