SLU news

Climate-friendly rice from SLU - one of the world's best innovations in 2015

Published: 03 December 2015

A climate-friendly rice that nearly eliminates the production of the greenhouse gas methane has been named the grand prize winner for engineering in Popular Science magazine's annual Best Tech of the Year edition. The rice has been developed by an international research team led by Chuanxin Sun from SLU.

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and a significant proportion of the anthropogenic methane emissions is caused by rice cultivation. In July this year, an article was published in the journal Nature about a new kind of rice, SUSIBA2, which emits much less methane than normal rice, and also increases the yield of rice plants to produce more food.

The new rice attracted considerable attention in media around the world, and now it has been named one of the most important innovations in 2015 by the American magazine Popular Science. The magazine lists 100 innovations, among ten categories, that are considered so revolutionary that they are bound to shape the future. The new kind of rice ranks highest in the field of engineering.

The researchers behind this rice come from universities in Sweden, China and the United States, and many of them are or have been active at SLU. Main Author of the Nature paper is Chuanxin Sun, an associate professor at SLU's Department of Plant Biology. Christer Jansson, who has worked with the new rice for ten years, was previously a professor at the same department, but is now working at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US.

Splicing a single barley gene into common rice changed the way the plant handles photosynthesis: Instead of sending carbon to the roots, to feed the bacteria that produce methane, the plant directs it toward the grain and leaves, increasing the starch level and yield. The rice is not available for commercial farming, but it is being tested in practical farming in China.

Contacts at SLU

Chuanxin Sun, Associate professor
Dept. of Plant Biology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
+46 736 2215 40,

Anna Schnürer, Professor
Dept. of microbiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
+46 (0)18-67 32 88,

Further reading

Popular Science (Popsci)

Article about the rice in Sciencemag

Article in Nature

Expression of barley SUSIBA2 transcription factor yields high-starch low-methane rice. J. Su, C. Hu, X. Yan,Y. Jin, Z. Chen, Q. Guan, Y. Wang, D. Zhong, C. Jansson, F. Wang, A. Schnürer & C. Sun. Nature 523, 602–606 (30 July 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14673.