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Landmark achievement in rice breeding to unlock nutrient ‘treasure chest’ buried in the soil – PSTOL1 marks the spot!

ir74-pup1 left ir74 without pup1 rightYears of determined searching down phosphorous pathways has resulted in the triumphant discovery of a gene which enhances root growth and enables phosphorous uptake in rice, improving plant growth and ultimately increasing crop production.

Sigrid Heuer, Principal Investigator of the GCP-funded project, and her intrepid international IRRI-led team, tracked down the hidden gene by following clues beginning with the Indian rice variety Kasalath, first discovered 10 years previously by JIRCAS researcher Matthias Wissuwa (then at Japan’s National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences [NIAS]) as having a gene which helps it to thrive in phosphorous-poor soils.

On this quest, PSTOL1 marked the much sought-after spot: this is the name given to the major gene responsible for improved phosphorous uptake, unearthed along with a treasure trove of understanding on the mechanism of phosphorous-uptake efficiency, and will lead to faster, easier and smarter breeding methods, mapped out by molecular markers along the way.

An extended account of this adventure in plant science can be found in the full press release, whilst a Nature article, entitled The protein kinase PSTOL1 from traditional rice confers tolerance of phosphorus deficiency narrates the journey undertaken by the team. There is also a supplementary Nature commentary on the work, written by Leon Kochian

Shorter versions are a short video clip from BBC World News, and photo-stories on Flickr or Facebook.