Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 18:03 UK

Snorkel rice could feed millions

By Sudeep Chand
Science Reporter, BBC News


Snorkelling rice 'to feed millions'

A new rice plant has been developed which grows "snorkels" when exposed to floods.

A paper in the journal Nature, describes how the plant elongates rapidly in response to being submerged.

One of the scientists, Motoyaki Ashikari from Nagoya University in Japan, said "the impact is huge".

It could also boost the production of rice in Asia and Africa, where up to 40% of crops are subject to flash floods or deep water.

"People cannot plant any crops in the rainy season, because the crops drown and die in the floods," said Mr Ashikari.

Writing in Nature, Laurentius Voesenek describes how the Japanese scientists discovered the "snorkel" genes in flood-tolerant rice, and introduced them to more sensitive high-yield rice.

"Snorkels" grow as hollow tubes from parts of the plant called internodes, preventing it from drowning.

When the floods arrive, the super rice plants can grow up to 25cm per day.

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