As the world's second leading food crop, behind wheat, rice assumes a key role in counterbalancing global population growth. Rice production must increase by 1.7 percent a year during the next three decades to ``buy ourselves another 20 to 30 years to find a more permanent solution,'' Robert Huke says. His book, ``Rice: Then and Now,'' will be released later this year by the International Rice Research Institute. Dr. Huke, a professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., has done extensive research on Asian agriculture.Skip to next paragraph
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He says that during the past 25 years, rice production more than tripled with the development of a dwarfing gene that led to shorter, sturdier plants able to support a bigger grain mass.
``The first big leap in breeding advances was relatively easy to achieve,'' Huke says. ``The next advance will be more difficult.'' Still, he is confident that ``another 60 percent increase in yields'' is possible.