New research project to develop salt- and flood-tolerant rice for Africa within five years

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17 December 2020, Tanzania. Africa: Rice feeds 3.5 billion people globally, and provides up to 20% of the world’s daily calorie consumption. However, climate change is threatening the global annual rice harvest of approximately 800 million tons. A new research project, with funding from the Danish Government, seeks to remedy this by developing new rice cultivars tolerant of future climate change scenarios.

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“Although the start of the project has been challenged by the outbreak of the coronavirus, seeds from more than 300 rice genotypes have already been gathered and are now ready for flooding and salinity tolerance screening in Tanzania,” says Max Herzog, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen who is affiliated with the project.

The development of new, robust rice cultivars within the proposed time span of five years is made possible through the use of biotechnological tools, but does not include genetic modification. Researchers and students from the University of Copenhagen and Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania will collaborate closely with experts from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), who have previously succeeded in developing climate-smart rice for Asian farmers.

The USD 2 million research project is funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the official development cooperation agency of the Government of Denmark under the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fund will be used to cover the salaries for researchers and technicians, and the construction of screen houses and other research facilities at Sokoine University of Agriculture.

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