Scientists unlock largest map of any crop to fast-track rice breeding
THE GENETIC VARIATIONS of cultivated Asian rice have been mapped.
The map of 3,010 accessions, or the unique identifier given to a DNA, is the largest for a crop’s genome, the complete set of DNA—including all of its genes that contains all of the information needed to build and maintain a particular rice variety. The map is important in rice research because genomic variation is responsible for all the differences that make each rice variety different from another. The genetic map will enable scientists to discover new gene variants and characterize known genes for important traits, such as the natural ability of a particular variety to resist diseases and withstand floods, drought, and salty water.
Molecular breeders could use the genetic markers to select rice plants that are more likely to carry a desired trait before they are planted in the field, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said in a press statement.
About 780,000 rice accessions are available in gene banks worldwide. To enable the more efficient use of these accessions in future rice improvement, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI-Shenzhen) and IRRI sequenced the 3,000plus rice genomes.
“This information leads to faster and more accurate development of varieties suited to various agricultural environments, especially for unfavorable rice-growing areas where the poorest and most vulnerable farmers reside,” said Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, IRRI Deputy Director General for Research.
“Plant breeders can make more intelligent choices in selecting traits for improved varieties that farmers can cultivate, which leads to food and nutrition security. This is how advancements in rice science can impact the lives of millions of farmers and consumers.”
Rice is the staple food of half the world. By 2035, an additional 112 million metric tons of rice needs to be produced on a smaller area of land, using less water and under more fluctuating climatic conditions, which will require that future rice cultivated varieties be higher yielding and resilient to multiple stresses.