Maintaining the quality and productivity of crops that have evolved under lower temperatures will grow into an increasingly difficult problem as the average temperature of the planet keeps on rising. Researchers were able to find step-by-step techniques to increase crop quality, which is notably helpful for rice, which is known to be negatively impacted while ripening by greater nighttime temperatures than other crops are exposed to during the process.
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The ripening period of rice harvests is negatively impacted by increased nighttime temperatures, which can cause a condition known as “chalkiness” in the grain as a result of heat stress. However, scientists working at the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (UADA) may have found a solution to the problem of chalkiness caused by both heat and genetics.
What exactly is chalkiness?
Chalkiness occurs when there is a lower concentration of starch in rice, which causes the rice granule to become less solid. This can lead to poorer yields from the milling process, as well as decreased cooking conditions and value as a whole on the market.
The researchers zeroed down on a gene in particular that codes for a protein called vacuolar H+ translocating pyrophosphatase (V-PPase). It’s only an enzyme, but it’s known to play a part in enhancing the chalkiness of grain, so it may seem intricate and exciting, but all it is is an enzyme. Consequently, the researchers were able to limit the amount of V-PPase that was expressed by using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique to alter a promoter element. This element regulates the amount of V-PPase that is expressed. Impressive!
Peter James Icalia Gann, a Fulbright Scholar in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program, stated:
If we want to sustain life on our planet, it is really important to identify solutions to problems in our food systems that are coming with increasing average temperatures; We were really excited to share our findings that utilized gene-editing in rice to improve grain quality that remains consistent — even under heat stress.
In broad terms, the mutant lines displayed a marked improvement in rice quality, as seen by the more densely packed starch granules and the development of transparent (instead of chalky) rice grain. This was a direct result of genetic modification.