Enhancing Flood Tolerance in Wheat (Triticum aestivum) and Rice (Oryza sativa): Identifying Key Physiological Traits

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Wheat (Triticum aestivum) faces flooding on an estimated 15-20% of its cropping area each year, resulting in an average loss of 43% grain yield due to soil flooding. Additionally, global warming is expected to increase in major wheat-producing areas. In contrast, rice (Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima) is tolerant to soil flooding, but a few days of complete submergence of rice shoots can lead to severe damage and even plant death.
Our aim is to identify traits that can improve wheat and rice flood tolerance. For this, we examine the physiology of wheat and rice germplasm with known tolerance and intolerance. This includes sourcing wheat genotypes from CIMMYT Gene Bank and collaborators in Norway, Japan, and Australia. In addition, seeds of wild relatives to wheat (emmer, einkorn) have been supplied by NordGen, and wild relatives to rice (e.g., O. barthii, O. granulata) by the International Rice Gene Bank. We focus on root traits that confer a continuous O2 supply to the metabolic active root tip and shoot traits that improve leaf gas exchange under water.
Leaf gas exchange during submergence is enhanced by the formation of a leaf gas film around submerged, superhydrophobic leaves. However, genetic diversity for leaf gas film formation among predominately Danish wheat cultivars was low, and contrasting submergence tolerance between two wheat cultivars (Frument and Jackson) could not be attributed to leaf gas film thickness or persistence. Interestingly, shoot carbohydrate levels in flood tolerant Jackson and intolerant Frument were similar, contrasting with known tolerance mechanisms of carbohydrate conservation in submergence tolerant rice cultivars.
To identify genetic variation in roots traits conferring flood tolerance, we screened eight wild relatives of rice and three rice cultivars for key root traits known to confer flood tolerance. Key root traits included a barrier to Radial Oxygen Loss (ROL), aerenchyma and root anatomical traits which were analysed using a plasticity index when mimicking soil flooding. We find that the studied O. sativa genotypes display similar plasticity in the key root traits as wild relatives.
Current efforts also include field screening of >300 African rice accessions, including undescribed African landraces and O. glaberrima genotypes, in order to breed for flooding and salt tolerance. Work is conducted with Sokoine University of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute, funded by DANIDA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventNordGen PPP Conference: Use of Genetic Resources in Breeding for Climate Change in the Nordic Region – Why Research and Innovation Do Matter. - Malmö Arena Hotel, Malmö, Sweden
Duration: 1 Feb 20232 Feb 2023


ConferenceNordGen PPP Conference
LocationMalmö Arena Hotel
Internet address

ID: 333710083