Early Flowering African Rice Beats the Heat

Scientists at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), based in Côte d’Ivoire, have systematically explored the collection of rice diversity conserved in the center’s genebank and have discovered some samples that flower much earlier in the morning than varieties currently used by farmers. The scientists suspected that some African rice samples conserved in the AfricaRice genebank might have genes for ‘early morning flowering’ (EMF), and thus be able to escape from heat.

The AfricaRice genebank conserves more than 21,000 samples of rice, of which about 14% are African rice. Over two years of hard work, the researchers identified 15 accessions which showed traits not only for early morning flowering but also early peak spikelet opening time. This provides a goldmine of genetic diversity for rice breeders. Breeders will be able to use that germplasm in their breeding programs to develop heat-tolerant rice varieties which are also high yielding.

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