Resilient rice

Fungus as fertilizer

A new study shows that treating rice seeds with fungi makes the plants more tolerant to salt, drought and cold, possibly providing a solution to future rice shortages caused by climate change, according to media reports.

Researchers inoculated rice seeds with two types of endophytic—or inward-growing—fungi that form symbiotic relationships with the plants they live on. One sample was from coastal dunegrass, and the other was from a kind of wild strawberry that thrives in below-freezing temperatures.

Rice seeds inoculated with the fungi grew up to five times faster, produced more grain and were more tolerant of drought than untreated seeds. Additionally, plants inoculated with coastal-plant fungi grew well under saline conditions, and those treated with wild-strawberry fungi thrived in low temperatures.

The technique is likely to work for different rice varieties and other crops such as corn and peas, said Russell J. Rodriguez, co-author of the study and a microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Read the study in peer-reviewed science journal PLoS ONE at