by Maleeha Sofi
SRINAGAR: A team of plant scientists at the University of California have achieved 95 per cent efficiency in producing clones of commercial rice hybrid strain. This breakthrough will result in high yields of the crop, low cost of hybrid rice seeds, and disease-resistant rice strains. Very soon, it is expected to be available to small farmers worldwide.
What is interesting is that the research was the outcome of two scientists including a Kashmiri agriculture scientist, Dr Imtiyaz Khanday. The other scientist is Venkatesan Sundaresan.
An expert in plant development and genetics, Khanday is a leading agriculture scientist. He received his Master’s in biotechnology from the University of Kashmir and a doctoral degree in plant molecular biology and genetics from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Currently, he is an assistant professor at the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. He has done remarkable work in the field. Besides, he is an assistant agronomist for the Agricultural Experiment Station in the University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The latest breakthrough is a major shift in the hybrid rice crops.
The first-generation hybrid of crops shows higher performance than the parent strain. However, this is not a phenomenon in the second-generation hybrid of the crop.
So when farmers want to use high-performing hybrid plant varieties, they are required to buy new seeds every season. The whole process becomes costly for farmers and it becomes burdensome. However, some wild plants can produce seeds that are exact clones of themselves known as apomixis.
Apomixis is seen as a solution to many problems faced by farmers and people globally. “Apomixis in crop plants has been the target of worldwide research for over 30 years because it can make hybrid seed production accessible to everyone,” Prof Sundaresan, who heads the Sundareasan laboratory, was quoted saying in a report regarding the breakthrough. “The resulting increase in yields can help meet the global needs of an increasing population without having to increase the use of land, water, and fertilizers to unsustainable levels.”
Khanday and Sundaresan have achieved apomixis in 2019 as well, but with 30 per cent efficiency. With a new feat along with their colleagues in France, Germany, and Ghana, the clones could be sustained for at least three generations.
This method would allow seed companies to produce hybrid seeds more rapidly and at a larger scale, as well as provide seeds that farmers could save and replant from season to season. Rice is a genetic model for other cereals such as wheat and maize. Such cloning practices can be applied to other food crops.