2014_01: Dolce vita in the Rice Paddy
What is the topic?
Weedy Red Rice destroys around half of the global rice harvest - trend increasing. It perfectly mimicks cultivated rice, profits from fertiliser, irrigation and plant protection, but when it is time to pay back, it sheds seeds. How did it arise, how can we contain this weed? In cooperation with colleagues from the University of Torino team member Annabelle Grimm could unveil some of the mysteries using molecular paternity assays. Her work suggests that Weedy Red Rice was generated by humans themselves! When Italy, around 1800 started to breed its own rice varieties based on seeds imported from India, hitchhiking wild ancestral species of rice hybridised with these varieties and were spread all over Italy. Weedy Red Rice is thus a product of human activity. Genes that are important for survival in the wild (such as seed shed), but had been eliminated during domestication, reentered cultivated rice and transformed it into a weed. When we understand, which genes are responsible for this "weediness", we can design simple tests for commercial seeds to contain Weedy Red Rice in an ecologically safe manner.
100. Grimm A, Fogliatto S, Nick P, Ferrero A, Vidotto F (2013) Microsatellite markers reveal multiple origins for Italian Weedy Rice, Ecol Evolut 3, 4786-4798 - pdf