Scientists say they are close to identifying the genes responsible for the chalkiness of rice, knowledge that could lead to increasing yields of the staple crop, the International Rice Research Institute reports.
Developing chalk-free varieties of rice could increase the grain's value by 25%, according to the report.
Chalk is the white portion of the grain. During the milling process, rice with high chalkiness breaks apart more easily, reducing the amount that makes it to market.
The chalkiness of rice is a product of genetics and environment, with a few low-chalk varieties now available.
Researchers at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute looked into the genomes of high-chalk rice, rice with chalkiness that varied with the environment, and almost translucent low-chalk rice. They were able to identify areas in the genome responsible for chalkiness and will work further to find the specific genes.
“We are now working with the extremely low-chalk rice to generate different breeding lines to develop new chalk-free rice varieties,” one of the researchers, Xiangqian Zhao, said in a press release. “These can help farmers increase the amount of edible rice they harvest, produce higher quality rice, increase profit and deliver higher quality rice to consumers.”