Researchers from the Research School of Biology (RSB) and CSIRO have been given $400,000 and $600,000 respectively for a collaborative project to improve rice and tackle the impending food crisis.
Professor Susanne von Caemmerer of RSB and Dr Robert Furbank of CSIRO are part of the Molecular Physiology team of the C4 Rice Consortium, the largest non-profit rice research institute in the world, assembled to maximise the potential of rice as a food crop.
The Consortium, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), seeks to create C4 rice – rice with a built-in fuel injector to better convert sunlight into grain, potentially resulting in up to 50% higher production, while using less water and nutrients.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK government, and IRRI have put $14 million behind C4 rice over the next three years.
Researchers have successfully introduced 10 out of the 13 genes needed for C4 rice. In this second phase of the project, the Consortium aims to produce C4 rice prototypes for testing.
Professor von Caemmerer says the grant will be used to employ a postdoctoral fellow in RSB who will develop improved versions of Setaria viridis and Kitake rice, by selecting plants with the best mix of anatomical and biochemical features for C4 photosynthesis.