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Indian and Aussie scientists to collaborate and develop salt-tolerant rice

Scientists from India and Australia will collaborate towards developing rice that is tolerant to salt water. An agreement was signed between M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Chennai recently for a project supported by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. The three-year project will conduct research on salt-tolerant rice varieties identified from wild species using biotechnology approaches in India and Australia.

Dr Holger Meinke, director, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Hobart, who was the signatory on behalf of UTAS, said, “Partnership is the heart of what we need to achieve. We need to produce as much food in the next 50 years as we did in the entire 10,000 year history of agriculture. This is the reason why we need these kinds of projects.”

Dr V Selvam, executive director, MSSRF, the Indian signatory to the project recalled the foundation’s pioneering work in mangroves and saline-tolerant plants. “The Integrated Mangrove Fishing Farming System developed by MSSRF has been recognised as a ‘Blue Solution’ by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We need new approaches for food security,” he said. 

AISRF project awarded to UTAS and MSSRF through a highly competitive bidding process, will explore the use of a halophytic, wild rice relative (Porteresia coarctata or also called Oryza coarctata) that occurs as a mangrove associate in the inter-tidal mangrove swamps along the coasts of India and Bangladesh.  

Dr Ajay Parida, principal investigator for the Indian side of the project, called this a milestone in biotechnology research also due to the unique international collaboration. 

Prof. Sergey Shabala and Dr Lana Shabala from UTAS shared the details of the processes involved, while Dr Sivaprakash Ramalingam, MSSRF, shared the techniques that will be employed towards achieving this process. 

In the backdrop of increasing pressures on natural resources, the need for food security solutions is important. In this regard, plants resistant to salinity could be of great significance. It is in this context that the research project between the University of Tasmania and MSSRF titled ‘Developing salt tolerance rice for food security in Australia and India,’ supported by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) will be of relevance.

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