updated 5/21/2010 2:24:37 PM ET 2010-05-21T18:24:37

Scientists say a key to alleviating food shortages in Africa may be an indigenous rice, largely abandoned in favor of Asian varieties, that is uniquely able to withstand the continent's difficult growing conditions.

Even on its home continent, African rice has fallen out of favor as farmers use Asian varieties that tend to have higher yields.

Scientists have long seen the African grain as only a gene pool. They plucked the traits they liked and grafted them onto Asian strains to create hardier lines.

But researchers now say they are giving "elite status" to the African grain, while improving it with genes from Asian varieties.

The Africa Rice Center said Friday the result may be uniquely poised to reduce Africa's reliance on rice exports.

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