In parts of the world that rely on rice as a staple, zinc (Zn) deficiency often limits the crop and can cause serious human health problems. This research aims to develop rice tolerant of zinc-deficient soils and with higher grain zinc content.

At a glance

Zinc (Zn) deficiencies limit crop production in many parts of the world, and zinc  is often deficient in the diet of humans subsisting on staple-food crops such as rice, causing severe health problems. An important strategy for dealing with this is to breed crops that are efficient in taking up zinc and concentrating it in edible plant parts. Rice is one of the main crops being targeted because of its global importance and the prevalence of zinc deficiency in populations subsisting on rice. Zinc deficiency is a particular problem in rice because of the chemistry of submerged rice paddy soils, which results in zinc being extremely insoluble in many rice soils and therefore hard for the plants to take up. Zinc deficiency in the crop affects up to 50% of rice soils globally. Grain zinc concentrations in rice - already low compared with other cereals or pulses - are further reduced in zinc deficient soils, and large fertilizer additions are needed to overcome this.

The aim of this project is to improve understanding of the mechanisms of zinc uptake by rice, and so to develop varieties both tolerant of zinc deficient soils and with increased grain zinc. Field trials will be undertaken in the Philippines and Bangladesh. Laboratory, greenhouse and mathematical modelling experiments will be undertaken in Japan and the UK. The information gathered will be used in existing rice breeding programs that partners in the project are involved in.

Tolerance of rice varieties to soil zinc deficiency at different planting densities