ASIA – Scientists from Asia have succeeded in created a new paddy-field grown that achieves higher yields while sequestering more CO2 and using less fertilizer than traditional varieties.

The new rice variety developed by researchers from Nagoya University in Japan and Nanjing Agricultural University in China is reported to achieve 30% more yield than other varieties grown under the same environment.

The researchers achieved this functionality by increasing the expression of the plasma membrane proton pump gene OSA1 in the rice plant, which was previously found to influence stomatal opening.

CO2 intake in plants occurs exclusively through the stomata, which are holes on the leaves’ surface.

By increasing nutrient uptake and stomatal opening, the researchers were able to increase the rate of photosynthesis thereby speeding up growth and yield with less resources.

The group of scientists found the proton pump overexpressed rice, when compared to a wild strain, took up over 20 percent more mineral nutrients through its roots and opened its stomata over 25 percent wider when exposed to light.

As they take in mineral nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium through their roots, plants simultaneously absorb carbon dioxide through the stomata on their leaves and grow through photosynthesis.

In theory, photosynthesis enables, not only the farming of plants for food, but the exchange of carbon dioxide and management of the earth’s environment.

Seeking to determine the applicability of this theory, the scientists conducted a carbon analysis on the OSA1 rise.

Their results revealed that the carbon dioxide storage capacity (the indicator of photosynthesis activity) had increased by over 25 percent.

Its dry weight (biomass) on the other hand, had increased by 18 to 33 percent in hydroponic laboratory growth.

With this determined, the researchers set out to find if the results could be replicated under realistic growing conditions.

They conducted yield measurement exercises at four separate rice farms over the course of two years, finding that the rice with the overexpressed OSA1 gene had a yield over 30 percent higher than that of the wild strain.

They also discovered that even if the level of nitrogen fertilizer was reduced by half, it still produced a greater yield than the wild strain did with normal levels of nitrogen.

This new genetics-based approach is a game changer in agriculture as it could improve crop efficiency for more types of plants and as a result increase the food supply while mitigating the overproduction of CO2.

While these early-stage models have been created through genetic modification (GM), the researchers anticipate that future generations will use genome editing or chemical engineering instead.

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