Multiple Small-Effect Alleles of Indica Origin Enhance High Iron-Associated Stress Tolerance in Rice Under Field Conditions in West Africa

Front Plant Sci. 2021 Jan 15;11:604938. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2020.604938. eCollection 2020.


Understanding the genetics of field-based tolerance to high iron-associated (HIA) stress in rice can accelerate the development of new varieties with enhanced yield performance in West African lowland ecosystems. To date, few field-based studies have been undertaken to rigorously evaluate rice yield performance under HIA stress conditions. In this study, two NERICA × O. sativa bi-parental rice populations and one O.sativa diversity panel consisting of 296 rice accessions were evaluated for grain yield and leaf bronzing symptoms over multiple years in four West African HIA stress and control sites. Mapping of these traits identified a large number of QTLs and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with stress tolerance in the field. Favorable alleles associated with tolerance to high levels of iron in anaerobic rice soils were rare and almost exclusively derived from the indica subpopulation, including the most favorable alleles identified in NERICA varieties. These findings highlight the complex genetic architecture underlying rice response to HIA stress and suggest that a recurrent selection program focusing on an expanded indica genepool could be productively used in combination with genomic selection to increase the efficiency of selection in breeding programs designed to enhance tolerance to this prevalent abiotic stress in West Africa.

Keywords: NERICA; Oryza sativa; QTL mapping; genome wide association studies (GWAS); haplotype analysis; high iron associated (HIA) stress; iron toxicity.