Breeding high-yielding drought-tolerant rice: genetic variations and conventional and molecular approaches

J Exp Bot. 2014 Nov;65(21):6265-78. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru363. Epub 2014 Sep 9.


The increased occurrence and severity of drought stress have led to a high yield decline in rice in recent years in drought-affected areas. Drought research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) over the past decade has concentrated on direct selection for grain yield under drought. This approach has led to the successful development and release of 17 high-yielding drought-tolerant rice varieties in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In addition to this, 14 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) showing a large effect against high-yielding drought-susceptible popular varieties were identified using grain yield as a selection criterion. Six of these (qDTY 1.1 , qDTY 2.2 , qDTY 3.1 , qDTY 3.2 , qDTY 6.1 , and qDTY 12.1 ) showed an effect against two or more high-yielding genetic backgrounds in both the lowland and upland ecosystem, indicating their usefulness in increasing the grain yield of rice under drought. The yield of popular rice varieties IR64 and Vandana has been successfully improved through a well-planned marker-assisted backcross breeding approach, and QTL introgression in several other popular varieties is in progress. The identification of large-effect QTLs for grain yield under drought and the higher yield increase under drought obtained through the use of these QTLs (which has not been reported in other cereals) indicate that rice, because of its continuous cultivation in two diverse ecosystems (upland, drought tolerant, and lowland, drought susceptible), has benefited from the existence of larger genetic variability than in other cereals. This can be successfully exploited using marker-assisted breeding.

Keywords: Direct selection; QTLs; drought; grain yield; marker-assisted breeding; rice..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Breeding / methods*
  • Droughts*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Variation
  • Oryza / genetics*
  • Oryza / growth & development
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Selection, Genetic*