Indian farm scientists develop new rice variety which uses phosphate reserves in the soil

Indian farm scientists develop new rice variety which uses phosphate reserves in the soil

New Delhi (India Science Wire) - Indian farm researchers develop a new rice variety, which promises to use phosphate reserves in the soil, thus bringing down dependence on added chemical fertilisers.

The new plant variety developed at National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), New Delhi is expected to reduce phosphate fertiliser input substantially. Tests conducted at the laboratory showed a 47 per cent increase in biomass of the plant under phosphate limiting conditions.

The plant has to be now tested in the field. Field trials are likely to be conducted in north-east since the soil in that region is primarily acidic and are, therefore, more phosphate deficient.

?Apart from helping reduce the use of phosphorous fertilisers, the new plant variety is environment friendly. Presently, huge quantities of phosphorous compounds from the soil are washed away during rains and get deposited into lakes and other water bodies,? said Dr. Jitender Giri, head of the research team.� ?The new variety would help reduce this problem by ensuring that more phosphorous get used by the plants.?

The new plant is a transgenic. It has been developed by transferring a gene that helps to release phosphorus from organic phosphorous reserves in the soil. The gene has been taken out from a traditional rice variety called Dular, abundant in the eastern India ? in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam and transferred to a modern rice variety.

The gene is available in modern rice varieties also, but expresses more in Dular. Scientists have taken advantage of this to ensure that the positive aspects of Dular and the modern variety are married effectively. This study was published recently in the journal Plant Biotechnology.

The gene named OsPAP21b produces an enzyme, which is a protein that secreted into the soil through the plant?s root. In the soil, it releases phosphorus from phosphorus containing organic compounds that are not only available in plenty but also widely distributed. The process leads to increased availability of phosphate to the plant and thus, lesser need for application of phosphorous fertilisers from outside.

Phosphate deficiency is one of the major issues faced by global agriculture. It is estimated that as much as 70 per cent of the arable land in the world are phosphate deficient. The problem is managed by application of phosphate from outside. But, the stock of rock phosphate, the main source of phosphate fertilisers, is mainly concentrated in few countries ? USA, China, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia, where too the stocks are rapidly depleting.

The problem is particularly acute in India as nearly 90 per cent of the demand for phosphate fertilisers is met through imports. Rice, which is a major crop in the country, is the highest consumer of phosphate fertilisers. It accounts for 24 per cent of the total consumption of phosphate fertilisers in India.

In arrangement with:� India Science Wire, Vigyan Prasar

Image courtesy:� India Science Wire

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