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New Rice Line Could Benefit Malnourished
Populations By Jim Core
September 13, 2002
Rice grains with less phytic acid could mean improved nutrition
for the world's malnourished, more nutritious animal feed and less potential
for water pollution from manure.
The human body rarely lacks phosphorus, but people in developing
nations with primarily grain-based diets sometimes have mineral deficiencies.
Cereals like rice store most phosphorus in the grain as phytic acid, which
can't be digested by one-stomached animals like fish, chickens, pigs and
humans. It binds to minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc in the
slightly acidic conditions in the intestines. Because phytic acid is poorly
digested and utilized, these bound minerals are less available in the body. It
can also lead to environmental problems because undigested phosphorus expelled
in manure can pollute lakes and streams.
J. Neil Rutger, director and supervisory research geneticist at
the Dale Bumpers
National Rice Center in Stuttgart, Ark., has bred new stock--what
scientists call germplasm--for creating improved varieties with less phytic
acid. He worked with research geneticist Victor Raboy--world-renowned for a
patented technique that yielded lines of corn, barley and soybean with lower
amounts of phytic acid, commonly known as phytate. Raboy is with the
Small Grains and Potato
Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen, Idaho.
This is the first time Raboy's technique was used to produce
low-phytate rice. This rice has only half the phytic acid content of its parent
and an increased amount of more easily digested phosphorus.
Service, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, and the
University of Arkansas released the new rice
to breeders and researchers earlier this year.
Rutger and research chemist Rolfe J. Bryant analyzed the new
line and other varieties. Bryant found that the total phytic acid concentration
in the brown rice (with outer bran layer intact) of the new line was 49 percent
lower than that of its parent--a characteristic improved through breeding.
More information on this research can be found in the
September 2002 issue
of Agricultural Research magazine.