Snow reduced to historic lows, water tables falling and sea water rising towards inland areas. Together with rising temperatures and increasingly stressful climatic conditions rice plants intended for agriculture are reducing their production and they question the production capacity of the rice sector for the future. L'Italy is the main producer of rice in Europe with around 50% of the crops and an annual quantity of around 1,5 million tonnes. The Italian varieties, appreciated all over the world, suffer from the increase in the salinity curve of water in particular areas such as the Po Valley, in which over 95 percent of national production is concentrated. Excess salt in the soil can in fact lead to the death of plants or, more often, a reduction in productivity and this phenomenon is questioning the entire production chain, stimulating research into food safety.

To combat the effects of global warming a study of Faculty of Science and Technology for Sustainable Development and One Health of the Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma identifies the molecular attributes of resistance to increased salinity of some of the main varieties of Italian rice and studies the characteristics that a rice plant must have to continue to grow and produce even in adverse climatic conditions.

The research focused on 4 varieties currently cultivated in Italy, two more salt tolerant as Baldo e Onyx and two others more sensitive to salt such as Selenium e Dwarf avenue. By analyzing the molecular traits correlated to the phenotypic ones such as symptoms of distress and growth inhibition due to soil salinisation, researchers fromFood Science and Nutrition Research Unit UCBM have identified the ability to produce and accumulate antioxidants as the cause of greater tolerance to salt stress, publishing the first data on scientific journal Antioxidants and discovering that the plants most capable of surviving in an environment rich in salt are those capable of accumulating a greater quantity of glutathione, an antioxidant present in plant cells (but also in animals, fungi, and some bacteria) capable of preventing oxidative stress and cellular aging. The study of the metabolism of glutathione then allowed the researchers to identify the differences in the mechanisms of biosynthesis and control, including epigenetic, of the metabolism of glutathione between the different rice varieties, identifying the molecular traits potentially related to the tolerance of the rice varieties most resistant to soil salinisation.

"The results obtained so far from our research were presented in recent days at the international congress "Reactive Oxygen and Nitrogen Species in Plants" organized by the Plant Oxygen Group in Antibes Juan-les-Pins and in the coming months it will be possible to identify the tolerance markers present in plants more resistant to soil salinisation - explained the prof Vittoria Locato, teacher in the Master's Degree Courses of Food and Human Nutrition Sciences need Food science and technology and food design UCBM - Once these markers have been identified, it will be possible, through different biotechnological approaches, to transfer the resilience characteristics to rice varieties which, despite having great productive interest, are not resistant to salt stress".

In this way the most widespread and marketed varieties today, appreciated for their production or organoleptic characteristics but not sufficiently resistant to the changed climatic and environmental conditions, will be able to maintain adequate production levels capable of satisfying the demand for rice even in the changed environmental conditions. "Thanks to the possibility of crossing different varieties of rice - keep it going Leased - it will be possible to transfer characteristics of tolerance to environmental stress to varieties of agronomic interest, obtaining crops that are more resistant to climate change and therefore more productive, which will retain the organoleptic properties that make Italian rice and risotto famous throughout the world".

According to the European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service 2023 was 0.60 degrees centigrade warmer than the average for the years 1991-2020 and 1.48 degrees centigrade compared to the pre-industrial level of 1850-1900. 2023 was also the first year in which every day of the year exceeded the average temperatures of the period between 1850-1900 by at least one degree Celsius with almost 50% of days warmer than 1.5°C.

Global warming has brought this to Italy in the last months, according to the CNR-ISAC, a February and a record meteorological winter: in 2024 the warmest ever recorded, with +3.09 degrees centigrade and +2.19 degrees centigrade respectively compared to the average of the years 1991-2020.

The Italian rice production areas are the Piemonte (Vercelli and Biellese), Lombardy (Lomellina and Pavia, and with the Piemonte make up 93% of national production), Emilia Romagna (Ferrara and the Po Delta), Veneto (Verona, Rovigo), Sardinia (Oristano and Muravera) but also in Tuscany (Grosseto), Calabria (Piana di Sibari), Friuli Venezia Giulia (Udine), Sicily (Piana di Lentini) and recently also in Trentino. In 2023 the cultivated area was reduced by 8.182 hectares (-3,7% compared to 2022, with 210.239 hectares) and, although the Italian vintage was not among the worst, throughout Europe there was a drop in production due to consequences of global warming in recent years, given that the increase in temperature worsens the salinity of the soil.