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Innovative techniques

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Gardening for pleasure and education with dwarf rice
Figure 1: Different growth stages of a dwarf rice variety.
Figure 1: Different growth stages of a dwarf rice variety.

    Ever imagine that one can grow rice for fun and knowledge? TARI’s National Genetic Resources Center conserves more than 10,000 accessions of rice germplasm with wide genetic diversity. The collection includes japonica rice, indica rice, and glutinous rice in terms of grain texture, and paddy rice and upland rice in terms of cultivation method. The color of rice grain ranges from white, yellow, red, purple to black. The color of leaf blade covers the spectrum of light green, green, dark green, red and purplish red. The plant height varies from 35 cm to 200 cm. The growth habits include different maturity periods. In addition, the level of resistance/tolerance to both biotic and abiotic stresses, e.g., high temperature, drought, insect pests, diseases, etc. also varies. All these genetic resources provide basic material for selection and improvement through breeding to ensure food needs for the present and future generations of people. But in addition, these diverse materials can be utilized for other purposes.

    Compared to most of the field-grown varieties that grow to 100 to 150 cm in height with spikes about 20-35 cm in length, TARI’s newly-selected dwarf rice is about 50 cm tall, only 1/2 to 1/3 the height of average rice plants. However, the spikes it produces can be as long as 16 cm. This dwarf rice belongs to indica type, the grain is less sticky, and the taste is below average. In addition to serving as parental lines for breeders to develop shorter plants with lodging resistance, this dwarf rice is ideal for city dwellers to grow in water containers placed in balcony or rooftop gardens to personally experience the fun of growing rice from the stage of seedling preparation, transplanting, heading, fruiting to harvesting. This particular variety is also a good material for hands-on experiments for different levels of natural science or life science classes. Within one semester’s time, students will be able to observe and record the complete life cycle of paddy rice, and gain a better appreciation for the wonder of nature as well as the hard work of farmers.