Rice the Flag

Rice field

When the flag goes up – it’s suppertime!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Flag leaves are the last leaves to appear on a rice plant – signaling that it’s ready to produce food! They also contribute around HALF the nutrients we get in rice.

Enter Liana Acevedo-Siaca from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a team of international colleagues. They wanted to compare flag leaf photosynthesis at different light levels.

The researchers chose six different varieties to participate in this “Rice Olympics.” For each type of rice, there were eight plant competitors. The scientists measured how well the flag leaves of these plants perform photosynthesis. They tested the plants first in low light, then in bright light.

So, who took the gold in the “rice race”? IR-64-21!!

This variety photosynthesized more efficiently than the worst-performing rice types by over one hundred percent! Other best performers adjusted twice as fast to bright light. This means more food, faster! Knowing this can help farmers improve their crop yields.

That’s some news for the rice paper! Get it? Rice paper?

References: Acevedo-Siaca, L. G., Coe, R., Quick, W. P., & Long, S. P. (2021). Variation between rice accessions in photosynthetic induction in flag leaves and underlying mechanisms. Journal of experimental botany, 72(4), 1282-1294. https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/eraa520