A new study from the University of Sheffield reveals that genetically modifying rice for better salt tolerance could allow it to be grown in places it would otherwise fail, making the crop adapted to survive in environments that have become harsher due to climate change and also help tackle global food insecurity.
As sea levels rise as a result of climate change, saltwater floods more land and destroys crops that cannot cope with increased salinity. Rice is one of the most affected crops and is becoming harder to grow due to increasing saltwater interference. A research group from the University of Sheffield's Institute for Sustainable Food revealed that genetically modifying rice to reduce the number of stomata makes it more salt resistant. A previous study by Sheffield scientists found that reducing the number and size of stomata in rice plants allows them to use up to 40 percent less water, making them hugely beneficial in places prone to drought. These findings, along with new results, mean that rice can be adapted to harsh environments.
The researchers also discovered that reducing the number and size of stomata could make rice harder to grow in extremely hot temperatures. The research team notes that to make sure that rice grows as effectively as possible in different countries and environments, different modifications need to be made, such as rice with fewer, larger stomata is better suited to grow in extremely warm temperatures.