The study will be headed by New York University’s Michael Purugganan and Richard Bonneau, who are part of the university’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and Fordham University in New York City.
One of the world’s main food staples, rice plays a critical role in feeding the global population. And like many crops, rice is continuously exposed to multiple environmental signals and must respond to the dynamic conditions found in nature. Saline soil conditions, in particular, are seen as a growing threat to agriculture.
The researchers said they will examine how plants’ gene regulation potentially may lead to their adaptation in salty soils. By identifying genes that plants use to acclimate to different environments, the researchers said they hope to lay the groundwork for breeding rice that may thrive in saline-laden terrains.
The researchers work primarily will look at Asian rice, the world’s most important food crop, but also will study African rice, a less well-known relative of Asian rice that is grown in West Africa, but which holds promise for its better tolerance to various environmental stresses.
The work will employ both genome sequencing and large-scale analysis of gene expression in rice grown both in the laboratory and the field, according to the researchers. The study also will develop new methods for analyzing large-scale genomic data.