A project to develop new rice varieties able to cope with demanding climate conditions and to sustain world population growth has been kicked off by the UK and Vietnam.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is ploughing £250,000 into the research, which will sequence the genomes of 30 types of rice selected for their high quality and yield potential, tolerance to flooding and resistance to pests and diseases.

The study, which will ­receive up to £100k from Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology, will then explore the new rice sequences to help farmers breed rice varieties with improved traits.

Much of the grain eaten globally is grown in low-­lying or delta regions in countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, which are liable to flooding as sea levels rise, according to the BBSRC. "Rice is the staple food of around half the world's population. With this relatively modest investment we have the potential to make a very big difference," said David Willetts, minister for Universities and Science.

Professor Janet Allen, director of Research, BBSRC added: "Current trends in yield increase, combined with threats arising from climate change, mean that without research into new varieties we are facing the threat of a food security crisis."