Scientists Complete Rice Genome Sequence
August 17, 2005 -- Scientists have cracked the genetic code of rice, identifying the order of almost all 389 million chemicals that form its DNA. Rice is the first crop plant genome to be entirely sequenced; the completed sequence appears in the Aug. 11 edition of Nature. Knowing the organization of the plant's genome makes it possible to identify genes responsible for important traits.
In the next 20 years, the world's rice production must increase by 30 percent to keep up with demand. With information from the genetic code, scientists will be able to alter rice to produce higher yield, improved nutritional content, and greater disease resistance at a faster pace than with conventional plant breeding tools. Because rice shares common sets of genes with many major food and feed crops, including corn, wheat, rye, and barley, scientists can more easily sequence related genomes and modify those crops as well.
The effort was undertaken by the International Rice Genome Project, a consortium of researchers from Japan, the United States, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Thailand, France, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.
A National Research Council report, The National Plant Genome Initiative: Objectives for 2003-2008, reviews the future directions of plant biology and genomics and recommends priorities for the 2003–2008 phase of NPGI. In addition to urging the NPGI to support the complete sequencing of the rice genome, the report recommends sequencing efforts in other plants.