SYDNEY, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Scientists are calling for a global effort to identify the protein composition of rice, an understanding they hope will allow them to create a more heat and drought resistant crop.
The international team made up of researchers from Australia, Iran and Japan released a study on Wednesday in which they identify 5,700 new proteins in the grain.
However they say that with an estimated 35,000 proteins encoded by the rice genome, 82 percent of which are unknown, we are a long way from being able to harness its full potential.
While the genome of rice was successfully mapped and published by 2001, study co-author Paul Haynes from Australia's Macquarie University says that scientists still don't know enough to be able to adapt it to best suit humanity's needs.
"It is imperative that we find ways to make rice better adapted to environments with warmer climates and less available water," Haynes said.
In Australia and many other areas, rice production is under pressure from limited supply of water, which Haynes believes can be alleviated by merging commercial rice with wild varieties to increase root length.
"If we could somehow transform commercial rice varieties so that they grow deeper roots, thereby increasing water uptake efficiency while still retaining high grain yields, we could produce more sustainable plants that would help to future-proof the Australian rice industry," Haynes said.
"If we are to continue to feed the ever-increasing number of people on our planet, we really need to produce rice which is more sustainable in terms of better water use and better nutrient uptake, while still maintaining current levels of grain production."
The team hopes that their initial study will form the basis of an international collaborative project aimed at identifying all the remaining missing proteins in rice.