Rice and its Wild Relatives

By Leanna Feder

Sep 26 2019

Humans have been farming rice for approximately 10,000 years. The two major domesticates of rice grown around the world are Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glaberrima (African rice). Domestication of Asian and African rice occurred independently of each other, and from separate species. Oryza rufipogon is a wild progenitor of domesticated Asian rice; Oryza barthii is a wild progenitor of domesticated African rice.

Compared to cultivated varieties, wild rice plants produce fewer seeds. In addition to lower seed count, wild rice species shatter their seeds as a method of dispersal. This is an unfavorable trait for a crop because it makes harvesting more difficult and decreases crop yields. Although the non-shattering trait is not favored in nature, it was, and still is, present in the genome of wild varieties. Of the two domesticated varieties, O. sativa (Asian rice) is more commonly grown throughout the world.

References & Further Reading:

Cubry, P., et al. (2018). The Rise and Fall of African Rice Cultivation Revealed by Analysis of 246 New Genomes. Current Biology, 28(14). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.066

IRRI. (2013). Rice almanac: Source book for one of the most important economic activities on earth. Phillipine: Global Rice Science Partnership.

Sweeney, M., & Mccouch, S. (2007). The Complex History of the Domestication of Rice. Annals of Botany, 100(5), 951–957. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcm128

Zuo, X., et al. (2017). Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(25), 6486–6491. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1704304114