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Up to 31% higher rice yields with gene-editing

Scientists from Purdue University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have used gene-editing technology to develop a variety of rice that produces 25-31% more grain.

They say this increase would have been virtually impossible to create through traditional breeding methods.

Of several varieties created, one produced a plant that had little change in stress tolerance but produced 25% more grain in a field test in Shanghai, China, and 31% more in a field test conducted on China’s Hainan Island. Photo: Reuters
Of several varieties created, one produced a plant that had little change in stress tolerance but produced 25% more grain in a field test in Shanghai, China, and 31% more in a field test conducted on China’s Hainan Island. Photo: Reuters

The team, led by Jian-Kang Zhu, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue and director of the Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, made mutations to 13 genes associated with the phytohormone abscisic acid, known to play roles in plant stress tolerance and suppression of growth. Of several varieties created, one produced a plant that had little change in stress tolerance but produced 25% more grain in a field test in Shanghai, China, and 31% more in a field test conducted on China’s Hainan Island.

Jian-Kang Zhu’s research team used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to silence a suite of genes in rice, leading to a variety that yields as much as 31% more grain. Photo: Purdue University
Jian-Kang Zhu’s research team used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to silence a suite of genes in rice, leading to a variety that yields as much as 31% more grain. Photo: Purdue University

CRISPR/Cas9 technology

Zhu’s team, which includes Purdue’s Ray A. Bressan, a distinguished professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences used CRISPR/Cas9 technology that allows plant breeders to quickly and accurately snip portions of DNA out of a sequence, editing the DNA code. The method allowed Zhu’s team to modify multiple genes at one time, something that would have taken decades to do with traditional methods without a guarantee that the resulting plants would have the desired characteristics.

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