No pollen, no grain
According to Kshirod Kumar Jena, plant breeder and International RiceResearch Institute (IRRI) countryrepresentative for Korea based in Suwon,cold temperature can damage rice in itsgermination stage, seedling stage, and/or reproductive stage. However, a drop intemperature during rice’s early vegetative
stage until its grain-lling stage causes
the most severe damage. Dr. Jenaexplained that cold stress hinders rice plants from forming fertile pollen that iscrucial for fertilization. Consequently,they fail to produce grains, which leadsto a decrease in yield or, worse, no yieldat all.Moreover, Dr. Jena mentionedthat low temperature impairs seedgermination, reduces seedling vigor,weakens rice’s photosynthetic ability byinducing leaf discoloration, reduces plantheight, produces degenerated spikes,delays days to heading, reduces spikelet
fertility, promotes irregular grain lling
and maturity, and leads to poor grainquality.
It’s in the genes
Rice breeders see no other way to reducecold-related losses in rice productionthan genetically improving cold-sensitivecultivars using modern breedingtechniques. The sequencing of the ricegenome and the development of marker-assisted selection (MAS) have fast-tracked their research efforts.“Cold tolerance is a complex trait; itis controlled by many different genes,”Dr. Jena said. “But now, it has becomeeasy to identify the correct DNAmarkers linked to the quantitative traitloci (QTLs) conferring cold tolerance.”By developing desirable mapping populations and accurate phenotypingfor cold-tolerance and -sensitive traits,and conducting QTL analysis, Dr.Jena and his team were able to identifythree QTLs or genomic regions fromchromosomes 3, 7, and 9—QTLs thathave a direct link to cold tolerance at thereproductive stage. Through this, they
identied markers that linked the QTLs
to seed fertility.IRRI started collaboration withSouth Korea's Rural DevelopmentAdministration (RDA) using theInternational Rice Cold Tolerance Nursery (IRCTN) in 1978. However,recently, in collaboration with RDA's National Institute of Crop Science, a newsource was discovered, a cold-tolerant breeding line—IR66160-121-4-4-2—thatinherited cold-tolerance genes fromIndonesia’s tropical japonica cultivar Jimbrug and northern China’s temperate japonica cultivar Shen-Nung89-366.Using this line, Dr.Jena and his teamfrom RDA, namely,Jung-Pil Suh, Ji-UngJeung, Jung-Il Lee,Jong-Doo Yea, Jeong-Hee Lee, Yeon-GyuKim, and Jin-ChulShin, producedrecombinant inbredlines (RILs) bycrossing cold-tolerantand cold-sensitivecultivars. They thenevaluated these RIL progenies under two conditions: one, by subjecting themto cold-water stress at 18–19 °C in the
eld; two, by exposing them to cool air
temperature in the greenhouse at 18 °C.After the experiment, they selected some promising cold-tolerant lines that alsohave desirable seed fertility and earlymaturity traits.
To further strengthen internationalefforts to develop cold-tolerant varieties,IRRI established the Temperate RiceResearch Consortium (TRRC) in 2007.Its country members are Australia,Bhutan, Chile, China, Egypt, Japan,Kazakhstan, Nepal, the Philippines,Russia, South Korea, Spain, Tanzania,Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and the U.S.Dr. Seong-Hee Lee, Korean member of the IRRI Board of Trustees, wasinstrumental in the formation of thisConsortium, bringing along with him
the full nancial support of the RDA.
A steering committee and four workinggroups were formed. Each workinggroup focused on one of the four major
constraints identied for temperate rice:
(1) yield potential and grain quality, (2) blast resistance, (3) cold tolerance, and
(4) nitrogen and water use efciency.
The third group, in particular,aimed to evaluate a selected number of cold-tolerant germplasm accessions provided by working group partnersat seedling and reproductive stages
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