ASIA – In a study published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics, researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have pinpointed an elite pool of the most resilient rice genotypes, poised to boost agriculture in regions grappling with soil salinity.

 This discovery holds promise for millions of hectares of land in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa, where rice yields have long been stifled by increasing salinity levels, exacerbated by climate change-induced salt-water intrusions.

Genetic gains, the metric for gauging the advancement of breeding programs, have traditionally been challenging to estimate, especially in environments with high salinity.

However, this study marks a departure, providing a meticulous analysis of IRRI’s rice salinity breeding efforts to identify top-performing genotypes. These genotypes, characterized by their exceptional salinity tolerance and high grain yield, serve as a critical resource for expediting the development of salt-tolerant rice varieties.

Despite strides in breeding methodologies, the study highlights a pressing need for modernization and optimization within IRRI’s breeding program to achieve higher genetic gains.

Recognizing this imperative, the institute has embraced innovative approaches, such as population improvement-based breeding strategies and genomic selection, to enhance breeding efficiency and accelerate the delivery of improved rice varieties.

Introducing “Connected Breeding”

A notable addition to IRRI’s arsenal is the introduction of “Connected Breeding,” a pioneering approach that enables simultaneous population improvement and diversification of elite pools without compromising overall performance.

By leveraging this cutting-edge methodology, researchers aim to sustainably increase genetic gains and meet the escalating demand for salt-tolerant rice varieties.

While the study underscores the urgency of ramping up genetic gains to ensure global food security, it also emphasizes the need for a holistic and systematic breeding effort, reports Farmers Review Africa.

Through pre-breeding endeavors, robust experimental designs, and strategic characterization of environments, IRRI endeavors to perpetuate constant and substantial genetic gains in its salinity breeding program.

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