ROME, Italy, 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
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
"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," Cantrell said.
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 "Nature."
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 food security.
“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 Rights Reserved.