New discovery could make rice more resistant to serious illness

The discovery made by a group of researchers from Japan and the United Kingdom could prove to be an advantage for rice crops. In their study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, genetic techniques are described to counteract Magnaporthe oryzae, a species of fungus that makes the rice plant sick.

This is a very serious disease that can cause serious losses in terms of rice harvesting (it is believed that one-third of the total rice harvest is currently lost due to this fungus). The various strategies used to counteract this parasitic fungus have not proved to be very sustainable in terms of costs and the environment.

Even attempts to produce new varieties of rice to withstand this fungus more have led to undesirable genetic effects. Today’s new genetic modification technologies can be used “to accurately insert genes into rice plants,” a technique that could overcome the problem of binding drag, a phenomenon during which unwanted genes are transferred along with those desired during the production of other plant varieties.

However, we must first identify the most effective genes that increase the immunity of rice to this disease. This is what the researchers did behind this study: according to them a particular immune receptor in rice could improve resistance to fungal disease in rice by triggering important monetary reactions in response to two distinct fungus proteins. The genes encoding this receptor could then be used to design new rice plants that more effectively counteract fungal proteins.