Breeding Drought-Resistant Rice with Advanced Genetics

Jenn Hoskins
19th March, 2024

Breeding Drought-Resistant Rice with Advanced Genetics

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In India, scientists improved a popular rice line, making it more drought-tolerant
  • They introduced a drought resistance gene, qDTY 1.1, from another rice variety
  • Six new rice lines were created, capable of maintaining yields in dry conditions
Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world's population, and its production is crucial for global food security. However, rice crops are frequently threatened by drought—a condition where water is too scarce to meet the plants' needs. This stress can drastically reduce yields, particularly in countries like India, where rice is a major part of the diet and the economy. Scientists at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Rice Research have taken steps to address this challenge[1]. They focused on RPHR-1005R, a rice line used to produce a popular hybrid variety. Unfortunately, this line and its hybrid offspring are highly sensitive to drought, which limits their usefulness in dry regions. To tackle this, researchers used a technique called marker-assisted backcross breeding (MABB). This method allows scientists to incorporate specific traits—like drought tolerance—into a plant by selecting for certain genetic markers. In this case, they introduced a key genetic element from a drought-tolerant rice variety, Nagina22, into RPHR-1005R. The gene of interest is known as qDTY 1.1, which has been shown to maintain grain yield even under water stress. The process involved identifying plants that had inherited the qDTY 1.1 gene and other desired characteristics from both parent strains. They used a type of DNA testing called PCR based SSR markers to ensure the correct genes were present. After several rounds of breeding and selection, the scientists identified six new lines of RPHR-1005R that carried the drought tolerance trait. These improved lines are important for several reasons. First, they can be used to create new hybrid rice varieties that can withstand drought conditions, which is critical for maintaining rice production in areas affected by water scarcity. Second, the new lines perform well not only in traditional paddy fields but also in less water-intensive cultivation systems, such as directly seeded aerobic fields and upland areas. This research builds upon previous efforts to develop rice strains that can cope with various environmental stresses. For example, earlier studies have successfully combined resistance to multiple biotic stresses like pests and diseases with drought tolerance[2]. These advances are significant, as they demonstrate that it's possible to breed rice that is resilient to a range of challenges while still achieving high yields. Another study identified multiple QTLs related to grain yield under drought conditions, which are essential for breeding programs focused on drought resistance[3]. The qDTY 1.1 gene, central to the new research, was among those previously discovered, reinforcing its value in developing drought-tolerant rice varieties. Moreover, the development of rice varieties that can withstand not just drought but also other abiotic stresses like salinity and submergence is a key goal for researchers. A study that introduced major QTLs for tolerance against these stresses into a popular rice variety, Improved White Ponni, showed that it's possible to create rice strains that can survive multiple types of environmental stress[4]. The success of the ICAR-Indian Institute of Rice Research in enhancing the drought tolerance of RPHR-1005R represents a significant step forward in rice breeding. It not only offers hope for rice farmers in drought-prone areas but also contributes to the broader effort to ensure food security in the face of climate change. By combining traditional breeding techniques with modern genetic tools, scientists are creating a new generation of crops ready to face the challenges of an unpredictable environment.

GeneticsPlant ScienceAgriculture


Main Study

1) Genetic enhancement of reproductive stage drought tolerance in RPHR-1005R and derivative rice hybrids through marker-assisted backcross breeding in rice (Oryza sativa L.).

Published 18th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Marker Assisted Forward Breeding to Combine Multiple Biotic-Abiotic Stress Resistance/Tolerance in Rice.

3) Genetic Mapping Identifies Consistent Quantitative Trait Loci for Yield Traits of Rice under Greenhouse Drought Conditions.

4) Pyramiding QTLs controlling tolerance against drought, salinity, and submergence in rice through marker assisted breeding.

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