Best minds meet to help crops survive flooding

 Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail   |  

To learn more on this, over a hundred scientists from 29 countries will gather for the 11th Conference of the International Society for Plant Anaerobiosis (ISPA) on 6–11 October 2013 at the International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Laguna.

Conference participants aim to discuss progress in developing food crops that can survive without oxygen, that is, during devastating floods that cause big crop losses.

Two of the research findings that will be presented at the conference deal with how plants sense low oxygen levels to survive flooding and the role of a specific signaling mechanism that helps plants modulate their responses under low oxygen.

These studies were published in the leading scientific journal, Nature, in 2011.

Vast rice-growing regions in India, Bangladesh, and other countries, which are submerged during rainy season and rendered useless for rice production, have been made productive since the SUB1 gene that makes rice flood-tolerant was discovered and bred into popular existing rice varieties.

Dr. Abdelbagi Ismai inspects rice varieties with the SUB1 gene.

Dr. Abdelbagi Ismai inspects rice varieties with the SUB1 gene.

“Farmers were happy because, even if their paddies were flooded, their rice crops with the SUB1 gene survived the floods,” said Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, ISPA conference coordinator and IRRI principal scientist.

“More than 1.7 million hectares of flood-prone land in India is now planted with submergence-tolerant rice since the first flood-proof variety, called Swarna-Sub1, was developed,” he said.

Translational science, the theme of this year’s ISPA conference, is a science focused on developing practical and helpful outcomes. It takes into account the changing times and challenges that humanity faces today: climate change, food insecurity, and environmental sustainability.

These major scientific discoveries, along with several others, have opened up a whole new world of exciting possibilities for developing flood-proof crops, which is increasingly important as flooding becomes more frequent and more severe.

The conference is open to anyone interested in learning the latest research on adaptation to flooding and on how science affects agriculture and livelihoods. Scientists, university professors, students, and postgraduate fellows will be attending the conference.

Besides the scientific program, the conference will also include a field tour at IRRI. For more details, please visit the conference website at

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