Thai researchers have identified a fungus parasite on fragrant rice that can produce its distinctive aromatic pandanus leaf smell.

The finding could provide food producers with the means of enhancing the flavour of fragrant rice, whose sweet smell fades as time passes. It could also lead to developments in food and cosmetic products such as soap, according to scientists at the Thon Buri School of Bioresources and Technology in Bangkok.

The fungus, classified as a genus of curvularia, is a micro-organism that helps protect the rice against insects and plant diseases. In return the rice gives nutrition and shelter to the fungus.