Protein That Boosts Rice Yield Identified

In collaboration with researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University, Dr Tony Miller from the John Innes Centre has developed rice crops with an improved ability to manage their own pH levels, enabling them to take up significantly more nitrogen, iron and phosphorus from soil and increase yield by up to 54%.

Rice contains a gene called 3, which creates a protein involved in nitrate transport.

This one gene makes two slightly different versions of the protein: 3a and OsNRT2.3b.

Following tests to determine the role of both versions of the protein, Dr Miller’s team found that 3b is able to switch nitrate transport on or off, depending on the internal pH of the plant cell.

When this ‘b’ protein was over-expressed in rice plants they were better able to buffer themselves against pH changes in their environment. This enabled them to take up much more nitrogen, as well as more iron and phosphorus. These rice plants gave a much higher yield of rice grain (up to 54% more yield), and their nitrogen use efficiency increased by up to 40%.