Multi-trait improvement in rice through marker-assisted breeding

Biotechnological tools like molecular markers can add precision to breeding and accelerate breeding efforts. Towards this objective, our research team at ICAR-IIRR has applied marker-assisted breeding (MAB) for improvement of multiple traits like resistance against bacterial blight, blast, gall midge and BPH, heterosis related traits, improvement of low soil P tolerance, grain quality and yield. Through marker-assisted backcross breeding (MABB), a high-yielding, bacterial blight resistant rice variety possessing fine-grain type and low glycemic index (GI), named Improved Samba Mahsuri (ISM) has been developed and released for cultivation by farmers. MABB has also been applied for improving bacterial blight resistance of a few important traditional and evolved Basmati rice varieties and hybrid rice parental lines. A novel bacterial blight resistance gene, Xa33 has been identified from an accession of the wild rice, O. nivara, fine-mapped and transferred into several elite genetic backgrounds. Novel sources of resistance against bacterial blight and blast diseases have been identified and characterized and major blast resistance have been transferred to several elite genetic backgrounds and a major QTL associated with neck blast resistance has been identified from wild rice. Additionally, gene pyramid lines possessing resistance against gall midge have also been developed and a novel and highly effective BPH resistance gene has also been identified and mapped with molecular marker and few promising donors possessing resistance against sheath blight have been identified. A molecular marker-based assay has been designed for rapid and accurate determination of impurities in seed-lots of rice hybrids and their parental lines and functional markers have been developed for the traits relevant to hybrid rice, viz., wide-compatibility, wild-abortive cytoplasmic male sterility and fertility restoration. Functional markers have also been developed for major grain quality determining genes, fgr and GS3 and a major QTL controlling gelatinization temperature has been identified through molecular mapping. The major QTL responsible for low soil phosphorus (P tolerance, viz., Pup1 has been transferred to Improved Samba Mahsuri, MTU1010 and IR64 and novel, non-Pup1 type donors have been identified for the trait. Four major yield enhancing genes, viz., Gn1a, SCM2, OsSPL14 and GW5 have been transferred to elite rice cultivars, viz., Improved Samba Mahsuri, Swarna, MTU1010 and NDR359.