Genomics-based precision breeding approaches to improve drought tolerance in rice

B P Mallikarjuna Swamy, Arvind Kumar
Biotechnology Advances 2013, 31 (8): 1308-18
Rice (Oryza sativa L.), the major staple food crop of the world, faces a severe threat from widespread drought. The development of drought-tolerant rice varieties is considered a feasible option to counteract drought stress. The screening of rice germplasm under drought and its characterization at the morphological, genetic, and molecular levels revealed the existence of genetic variation for drought tolerance within the rice gene pool. The improvements made in managed drought screening and selection for grain yield under drought have significantly contributed to progress in drought breeding programs. The availability of rice genome sequence information, genome-wide molecular markers, and low-cost genotyping platforms now makes it possible to routinely apply marker-assisted breeding approaches to improve grain yield under drought. Grain yield QTLs with a large and consistent effect under drought have been indentified and successfully pyramided in popular rice mega-varieties. Various rice functional genomics resources, databases, tools, and recent advances in "-omics" are facilitating the characterization of genes and pathways involved in drought tolerance, providing the basis for candidate gene identification and allele mining. The transgenic approach is successful in generating drought tolerance in rice under controlled conditions, but field-level testing is necessary. Genomics-assisted drought breeding approaches hold great promise, but a well-planned integration with standardized phenotyping is highly essential to exploit their full potential.

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