New commercial EUropean RICE (Oryza sativa) harbouring salt tolerance alleles to protect the rice sector against climate change and apple snail (Pomacea insularum) invasion

About 2/3 of the rice consumed by European citizens is produced in the EU, and its productivity is affected by abiotic and biotic stresses. Of particular concern, global temperature has increased over the last century, especially during the last 50 years (0.13° C / decade). One consequence has been a clear tendency toward salinization, which affects rice as one of the most salt-sensitive crops in the region. Associated with changes in temperature and salinity, the biotic stress of the Apple snail species now threatens to destroy rice paddy fields eating the sown seed and the rice plantlets. It is calculated that nowadays this pest causes damages in rice fields worldwide that result in losses of tens of billions of Euros a year.

Thus, the general objective of the NEURICE project is to identify and introduce genetic variation in European rice varieties for obtaining commercial varieties tolerant to salinity in order to (i) mitigate the imminent effects of salinization and deterioration of water quality in the Mediterranean basins due to climate change, and (ii) to avoid the decline in production observed after seawater treatments performed in rice paddies that successfully controlled the apple snail pest. The availability of commercial salt tolerant rice lines will prevent climate change derived abiotic stress while avoiding the dispersion of this devastating pest (biotic stress) all over Europe.

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