PULLMAN — WSU Regents Professor Gerald Edwards of the School of Biological Sciences has received $335,000 over three years for ambitious research designed to re-engineer photosynthesis in rice. The goal of the international project is rice that will produce 50 percent more grain while using less water and less fertilizer.
About half of the world’s population eats rice as a staple crop. Increases in rice harvests will help literally billions of people have more adequate nutrition.
Rice belongs to a group of plants that use what’s known as C3 photosynthesis. Such plants evolved relatively early in Earth history. A few later plants – including corn – use a much more efficient biochemical pathway for photosynthesis known as C4. The project aims to give the benefits of the C4 pathway to rice, a C3 plant.
Edwards is a member of the C4 Rice Consortium being led by the International Rice Research Institute and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Scientists at several universities are collaborating with one another to pursue the goal of substantially improving rice harvests. Researchers at Yale, Oxford and half a dozen other institutions are part of the project, with a total of $11 million invested in the work by the Gates Foundation.
Edwards is an internationally recognized authority on rice. He pursues his research in the rice fields of Asia as well as in laboratories in the United States. He has been on the WSU faculty since 1981.