It is also supporting efforts of African countries to achieve self-sufficiency in the rice sector. In 1992, the organisation decided to work on interspecific hybridisation to develop varieties that combine the high yield potential of Asian rice with the local adaptation of African rice. AfricaRice’s collection of about 2,500 different kinds of African rice has served as a goldmine for this work.

Combining the best of both worlds

Several attempts to access the African rice genome through interspecific crossing had been made by rice scientists in the past. However, most failed as crossing different species is complicated because of incompatibility barriers, so the probability of sterility in the offspring is high. AfricaRice circumvented the sterility barrier between the two species by using anther culture and embryo rescue techniques, coupled with back-crossings to the Asian rice parent. Several hundred interspecific progenies with promising agronomic performance were generated, increasing the biodiversity of rice.