International Rice Functional Genomics meeting in Tucson Nov. 15-17

11/03/04

Journalists are invited to attend and cover the 2nd International Symposium on Rice Functional Genomics. The scientific meeting will be held Nov. 15, 16 and 17 at the Marriott University Park Hotel, 880 E. Second St., Tucson, Ariz.

The meeting will feature the latest developments in the structural, functional and evolutionary genomics research on rice.

Rice is the most important food crop in the world and an important experimental system for genomics research. The completion of the genome sequence of rice, scheduled for December 2004, will open a new and exciting chapter in research on the rice genome: the quest to determine the function of all of the approximately 50,000 genes in rice.

"Rice feeds half the world's population and that's the group that will double in population in the next 50 years," said Rod Wing, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the chair of the meeting's international organizing committee.

The meeting will bring together rice researchers from all over the world to discuss how to tackle the next step: figuring out what all those rice genes do. Right now researchers know the function of only about 500 rice genes-- just 1 percent of the rice genome. Learning how the genes act inside the plant is crucial for developing better varieties of rice. Wing estimates that this next task, the functional genomics of rice, will take scientists between five and ten years.

"We need to know all we can about rice. We want to decode its genome to establish a research platform to understand the regulatory mechanisms for disease resistance and drought control," said Wing, who is also director of UA's Arizona Genomics Institutes and a faculty member of UA's BIO5 Institute for Collaborative Bioresearch. "Once we understand how to control these regulatory networks we can design more drought-tolerant, disease-resistant crops and grow them in a more environmentally friendly way on less land with fewer pesticides and less water."

Gurdev Khush, the father of the Green Revolution in rice farming and former head of genetics and plant breeding at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, will be one of the keynote speakers. Khush is now professor emeritus in the department of vegetable crops at the University of California, Davis.

Other keynote speakers are J. Neil Rutger, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark.; Joseph R. Ecker, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in LaJolla, Calif.; and Susan McCouch, an associate professor plant breeding and plant biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The conference is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the U.S.D.A., University of Arizona's department of plant sciences, UA's BIO5 Institute for Collaborative Bioresearch, the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, DuPont, Invitrogen, Agencourt BioScience Corporation and Applied Biosystems.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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