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11 November 2017
Could ancient farmers hold the secret to improved world rice crops?

Approximately 4,000 years ago farmers in South America - the Monte Castelo and Guapore River areas of Brazil to be more precise - worked out how to domesticate and increase the yield of wild rice.
     Whilst the Yangtze River delta in China is the first known example of the domestication of rice, this find in Brazil ranks a good second. Unlike the species of rice farmed in China and West Africa it is hoped that this find might assist modern farmers to develop new strains of rice which are more tolerant to climate change and less susceptible to disease.
     The discovery was made by a team from the University of Exeter (UK) aided by funding from the European Research Council. They were also assisted by researchers from Universidade de Sao Paulo & Universidade Federal de Oeste de Para (Brazil) and Northumbria University (UK). Their analyses of microscopic remains uncovered a distinct development of wild rice to yield higher value crops through changes in the ratios between husks, leaves and stems.
     If the findings are proven they could have a far reaching positive impact on world rice production. Leader of the research team, Professor Jose Iriarte, is quoted as saying "This is the first study to identify when wild rice first began to be grown for food in South America. We have found people were growing crops with larger and larger seeds".

Edited from Popular Archaeology (10 October 2017)

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