Drought Resistance Improvement in Rice: An Integrated Genetic and Resource Management Strategy
Drought is the major constraint to rice production in rainfed areas across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the context of current and predicted water scarcity, increasing irrigation is generally not a viable option for alleviating drought problems in rainfed rice-growing systems. It is therefore critical that genetic management strategies for drought focus on maximum extraction of available soil moisture and its efficient use in crop establishment and growth to maximize biomass and yield. Extensive genetic variation for drought resistance exists in rice germplasm. However, the current challenge is to decipher the complexities of drought resistance in rice and exploit all available genetic resources to produce rice varieties combining drought adaptation with high yield potential, quality, and resistance to biotic stresses. The strategy described here aims at developing a pipeline for elite breeding lines and hybrids that can be integrated with efficient management practices and delivered to rice farmers. This involves the development of high-throughput, high-precision phenotyping systems to allow genes for yield components under stress to be efficiently mapped and their effects assessed on a range of drought-related traits, and then moving the most promising genes into widely grown rice mega-varieties, while scaling up gene detection and delivery for use in marker-aided breeding.