According to the American Society of Agronomy, it's an unfortunate fact that many people in developing nations don't get enough protein in their diets. What they often do get a lot of, however, is rice. With that in mind, scientists have improved upon a type of rice that has over 50 percent more protein than regular varieties.

Two years ago, a Louisiana State University team led by Prof. Herry Utomo released a high-protein long-grain rice cultivar known as Frontière. It was developed via a traditional breeding process, and it has an average protein content of 10.6 percent – that's a 53-percent increase over the protein content of the conventional Cypress rice with which the team started.

Additionally, it requires less heat, time and water to cook. Unfortunately, though, as is often the case with crops that have been bred for increased nutrient content, its yields aren't as high as those of regular rice – about 10 percent lower than those of Cypress.

In order to address that shortcoming, Utomo and colleagues recently tested 20 newly-developed lines of high-protein rice (some of the plant cell selections are pictured above). It turned out that one of them had a 10 to 17-percent higher yield than Frontière.

This new line is now ready for final field testing. It is hoped that the harvested rice could serve not only as a basic food, but also as a source of protein-rich rice flour, rice milk, or other food ingredients. The scientists are presently investigating the baking characteristics of such flour, as compared to those of other types of rice flour.

Marketed as Cahokia rice, the original Frontière line is now being grown commercially in Illinois. Farmers reportedly don't incur any extra costs, or need to change their current rice-growing practises in any way.

Scientists have also recently introduced new high-protein varieties of bananas and potatoes.

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