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May 8, 2012

Cornell - Identifying Aluminum Tolerant Rice

Professor Susan McCouch
Plant breeder, Cornell University
working in the greenhouse on
aluminum tolerance in rice varieties
Photo: Cornell University
On 8 May 2012 Cornell University announced that a university plant breeder had identified several rice varieties with some aluminum tolerance. This discovery is significant because it may lead to the creation of new varieties that are "super" aluminum tolerant.  As the map below demonstrates, there are large areas in the world where the soil impedes productive cultivation due to naturally occurring aluminum content.  Also, increasingly drought is drying up rice paddies where the water once diluted high levels of aluminum.

At Cornell University, Professor Susan McCouch and Leon Kochian of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Robert Holley Center for Agriculture and Health have been conducting aluminum tolerance experiments with different rice varieties. Preliminary results show that certain varieties such as the japonica are more tolerant than the more commonly grown indica varieties.  Some varieties stop aluminum from entering the roots, while others take up the metal and detoxify it inside root cells.  Work is ongoing to hybridize the most tolerant varieties into "new super-tolerant varieties."

This work is also relevant to other crops grown in soils with high levels of aluminum such as corn and wheat.  Aluminum toxicity is a primary limitation to crop production on about 50 percent of the world's potentially arable land, including about 20 percent of land in North America.

Areas in red have soil with high aluminum toxicity

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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