Genetic and root phenotype diversity in Sri Lankan rice landraces may be related to drought resistance

Mayuri Munasinghe, Adam H. Price

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The development of relatively cheap and high throughput methods of genotyping and phenotyping plants offers the opportunity to explore local germplasm more thoroughly than before and should accelerate the identification of sources of genetic variation suitable for breeding. In this study, 135 Sri Lankan accessions, mostly identified as landraces, for which data was available at the International Rice Research Institute on drought scores were genotyped using a 384 SNP array and assessed for root depth using a newly developed buried herbicide method. Roots of 36 accessions were assessed using hydroponics and 12 using soil-filled rhizotrons to establish if variation in herbicide score could be attributed to root traits.

Population structure based on the SNPs using STRUCTURE revealed six groups, being tropical japonica, aus and four indica subpopulations. Three of these indica subpopulations do not seem to be represented in the Rice Diversity Panel I (RDP1) of 372 global rice accessions and appear to represent genetic diversity so far poorly studied by the global scientific community. The herbicide score was highly discriminatory between landraces and correlated very strongly with hydroponic and rhizotron root traits. The mean herbicide score strongly differentiated between landraces according to the province and the latitude from which they were collected. It also differed between subpopulations, being high in indica 2 and tropical japonica and low in indica 1 and aus. Drought scores suggest that indica 2 is more drought resistant than the other groups. Correlations indicate that those landraces with high herbicide scores are more drought resistant in the vegetative stage. The landrace Niyan Wee, whose name in Sinhalese means “drought rice” belongs to the indica 2 subgroup, has high herbicide scores and deep roots.

Niyan Wee and other cultivars within the indica 2 subgroup should be a valuable source of breeding for drought resistance at least partly because of their superior root traits, not normally associated with the indica rice cultivars.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2016

Bibliographical note


Mayuri Munasinghe was supported by a Commonwealth Scholarship (ref no. LKCS-2009-384). The development and use of the SNP chip was funded by a BBSRC grant BB/J003336/1. The authors thank Owen Price (University of Wollongong, Australia) for producing the coloured province map of Sri Lanka, Gareth Norton (Aberdeen) for merging the RDP1 SNP data with the Sri Lankan data and Tony Travis (Aberdeen) for help with PCA.


  • Oryza sativa
  • rhizotron
  • SNP
  • structure
  • herbicide
  • indica


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