Application of DNA Markers Genomics and Biotechnology to Genetic Improvement of Rice and Coastal Marsh Plants

Herry Utomo  |  7/5/2017 5:47:34 PM

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Evaluating Rice in the Field

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Greenhouse Samples of Rice

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Smooth Cordgrass Seedlings

Bulrush test

Bulrush Test

The advancement in rice genomics and DNA marker technology open new possibilities to approach key problems found in rice production in more efficient ways. Increased understanding in the molecular aspects of rice that underlie genetic control of important traits has provided more effective tools to better control selection processes leading to high-quality, high-yielding cultivars. This research program will identify chromosomal regions containing genes that control important traits, tag them and integrate the resulting molecular marker technology into the breeding programs. Research programs include gene pyramiding, introgression of important traits, such as drought-tolerant, cold-tolerant (at seedling stage), salt-tolerant, aroma (Jasmine), grain weight, and panicle blight-resistant genes from outside the U.S. genetic pool into adapted Louisiana cultivars and breeding lines.

For U.S. rice production to remain competitive, new rice types must be developed to not only meet current demand but also provide high-quality products to reach more diversified consumers and subsequently create new demand by enhancing specific properties that will give outstanding health benefits. The high precision of the use of molecular markers offers important advantages in their utility for enhancing the effectiveness and speed of conventional breeding. One area of this research focuses on identifying markers associated with amino acid compositions and total protein content in the rice grain. Genomic analyses, sequencing, and analyzing both regulatory regions and the functional genes associated with protein accumulation in the rice grain, such as OsAAP6 gene, Floury Endospem2 gene, or GPC22, will potentially provide a key to develop better strategies for further improvement of high-protein rice.

Breeding efforts, genomics, and tissue culture are also being used to improve coastal marsh plants. An initial H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station collection of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), the predominant salt marsh species in Louisiana, has been used to develop superior, high seed-producing, smooth cordgrass lines. Molecular markers are used to characterize the genetic base and develop superior lines. Efforts are also being made to determine optimum production methods, harvesting techniques, and seed storage. The main goal would be to develop a dependable support system for aerial seeding that will allow for large-scale coastal marsh restoration and erosion control.

Similar approaches are being used to improve California bulrush (Schoenoplectus californicus), a deep-water marsh plant species native to Louisiana. Multi-location trials are being conducted to identify superior lines that have improved salt-tolerance levels. Seed production characteristics of California bulrush are being evaluated among elite lines for seed-based propagation purposes. Cellular selection is used to identify mutants that can tolerate high salinity.

For more information, contact Dr. Herry Utomo.

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