October 8, 2004 (ENS): Two rice scientists
from two of the world's greatest rice consuming countries
have jointly earned the top scientific prize in this,
the United Nations International Year of Rice.
Scientists from China and from Japan have won the International
Year of Rice Global Scientific Contest, the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization and the International Rice
Research Institute announced Wednesday.
Dr. Youyong Zhu, president of Yunnan Agricultural University
in China and Dr. Takuji Sasaki, director of the Genome
Research Department at the National Institute of Agrobiological
Sciences in Japan, have been selected for their contributions
to the advancement of rice research. They were chosen
from nominations contributed by more than 800 rice scientists
and researchers worldwide.
"Both papers clearly deserve their respective
awards not only for the scientific excellence but also
because of their potential impact and importance to
the international rice industry," said Ronald Cantrell,
director general of the International Rice Research
"The fact that these awards were given based on
the judgement of their peers is also something Drs.
Sasaki and Zhu can be justifiably very proud of,"
The paper by Dr. Youyong Zhu and his research team,
"Genetic diversity and disease control in rice,"
has been awarded first prize in the rice agronomy category.
The article can be found in the August 2000 issue of
the journal "Nature."
Dr. Zhu's study demonstrated that utilizing the genetic
diversity within rice varieties can reduce the severity
of rice blast, a fungal disease affecting rice crops.
In Yunnan, monocropped glutinous rice, which commands
a premium price in the Chinese market, suffered yield
losses of more than 45 percent because of blast. Farmers
had to spray fungicides seven to eight times throughout
the growing season to control the disease.
By intercropping high value, but blast susceptible
glutinous rice, with hybrid indica rice varieties, Yunnan
farmers achieved 92 to 99 percent control of rice blast
and produced up to one ton more grain per hectare compared
with indica rice monocropping, which is the traditional
way of growing rice in the region.
The article by Dr. Takuji Sasaki and his team, "The
genome sequence and structure of rice chromosome 1,"
has been awarded first prize in the rice breeding category.
Their article is found in the November 2002 issue of
Dr. Sasaki's paper reported the successful identification
of the essentially complete sequence of chromosome 1,
the longest chromosome in the rice genome. This breakthrough
is expected to assist breeders in determining gene function,
making it possible to better identify and select rice
varieties with beneficial traits.
"The successful mapping of the rice genome will
assist plant breeders in their efforts to develop rice
varieties with increased yield potential, resistance
to stress, and improved nutrient content," said
Louise Fresco, assistant director-general of the Agriculture
Department in the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.
Drs. Zhu and Sasaki will be recognized at a ceremony
on the occasion of World Food Day, October 14, 2004,
in Rome. They will be presented with medals on behalf
of their research and writing teams.
Three weeks later, rice research is again in the spotlight
when the world’s top rice scientists gather in
Japan for the World Rice Research Conference.
A climactic event of the United Nations’ International
Year of Rice, the conference will take place in the
Japanese science city of Tsukuba on November 5 to 7
after an opening ceremony in Tokyo on November 4.
Conference participants will present papers on the
latest scientific knowledge in four key areas:
- Innovative technologies for boosting rice production.
- Perspectives on the place of rice in healthy lifestyles.
- Adaptable rice based systems that help improve everybody’s
- The role of rice in environmentally sustainable
“We’re pleased and honored to be a partner
in such an important international event,” said
Dr. Cantrell of the International Rice Research Institute,
who called the event "our most important conference
in the International Year of Rice."
“Considering the momentous and historic recent
changes and breakthroughs in rice science - such as
the sequencing of the rice genome, the development of
nutritional rice and aerobic rice, as well as the introduction
of plant variety rights," said Cantrell, "the
World Rice Research Conference comes at a crucial time
for the international rice industry."
Rice remains the staple food of more than half of humanity,
according to the International Rice Research Institute.
In Asia, where 90 percent of all rice is grown and
consumed, more than two billion people obtain 60 to
70 percent of their calories from rice. More than half
of the world’s 1.3 billion poor are Asian rice
farmers and consumers, and Asia’s poorest - urban
slum dwellers and rural landless - still spend up to
40 percent of their income on rice.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All