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Genes to improve fertiliser nitrogen use efficiency in rice
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Genes to improve fertiliser nitrogen use efficiency in rice

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Indian biotechnologists have identified candidate genes for nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in rice.


About the News

  • Six high priority target genes for their potential to improve NUE in rice have been identified. Since NUE is controlled by too many genes, shortlisting them is very important for crop improvement towards NUE.
  • N-use-efficient (NUE) cultivars tend to be slow in germination and flowering, grow tall and deep with higher biomass and take longer duration to harvest but yield more with lesser N input.
  • The findings in rice will also be relevant to other cereals and possibly other crops, though they need to be validated.


About Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE)

  • Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is the fraction of applied nitrogen that is absorbed and used by the plant. Improving a plant’s ability to utilize nitrogen is a key component in enhancing environmental sustainability.
  • The nitrate-N comes from fertiliser, crop residues, manures, and soil organic matter, but it is the efficiency of conversion of fertiliser into grain that is generally of greatest concern to growers.
  • Efficiency is reduced by seasonal conditions, crop diseases, losses of N from the soil as gases, N leaching or immobilisation of N into organic forms.


Significance of the Study

  • Global challenge: Improving poor ‘nitrogen use efficiency’ (NUE) has been a major global challenge for decades, as there were no simple visual cues or genetic means to differentiate between high and low NUE cultivars in any crop.
  • Savings on fertilisers: Every year, urea worth Rs 50,000 crore is lost from Indian farms, with rice and wheat accounting for about two-thirds of it. This loss roughly equals the annual government subsidy on urea.
  • Water pollution: According to Indian Nitrogen Assessment, rice is important for NUE, as it consumes 37 per cent of all N-fertilisers in India, the highest among all crops on account of its lowest NUE. Fertilisers like urea emit ammonia, which can deposit on particulate matter and impact human health. N-fertilisers also cause water pollution and algal blooms, killing fish and affecting livelihoods.
  • Air Pollution: Urea also accounts for 77 per cent of all agricultural nitrous oxide emission to the Indian environment. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that is 296 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing climate change.



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