MANILA, Philippines, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The yield of common rice varieties planted in nutrient-poor soils can be increased by incorporating a gene from a wild Indian rice strain, scientists say.
Researchers from the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines said yields were increased about 60 percent in phosphorus-poor soils when they incorporated a gene from an Indian rice variety known as Kasalath, which is native to eastern India in areas with nutrient-poor soil.
Researchers said they spent three years identifying the gene in Kasalath that helps the rice take up phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
"We got the [DNA] sequence of this region but the region is very complex and it was very difficult to identify what is an actual gene and what is not," lead researcher Sigrid Heuer told BBC News.
The gene is responsible for larger root growth, Heuer said, so the plant takes up nutrients more easily.
Genetic engineering was used to transfer the wild gene into plants from two main rice varieties, indica and japonica.
A long-term goal, researchers said, is to develop "super-tolerant" strains of rice that can be successful in a wide variety of soil conditions found around the world.