Miracle-rice

Miracle-rice

Environmental changes are to blame for a 15% drop in the yield of “miracle rice” – also known as rice variety IR8 – since the 1960s when it was first released and lauded for its superior yields that helped avert famine across Asia at the time. IR8 used to produce 9.5 to 10.5 tons per hectare, significantly more than other varieties in the 1960s when average global rice yields were around only 2 tons per hectare. But, when grown today, IR8 can yield only around 7 tons per hectare.

“IR8 still performs very well considering global average rice yields still hover around 4 tons per hectare, but a 15% yield drop is significant and we needed to find out what was happening,” said Dr. Shaobing Peng, a crop physiologist from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and coauthor of a study published in Field Crops Research about the declining yields of IR8.

Dr. Peng and his team grew rice from original IR8 seeds preserved in the International Rice Genebank and compared it to rice grown from IR8 seeds continuously grown and harvested over the last few decades. He wanted to see if the genetics of IR8 had changed over time and if that was responsible for the yield drop – or if something about the environment was the cause.

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