, Volume 29, Issue 1-2, pp 123-133

Mapping QTLs associated with drought resistance in rice: Progress, problems and prospects

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The use of molecular markers in the mapping of traits of agronomic importance holds great promise for speeding the development of improved plant varieties and increasing our understanding of the physiological or molecular mechanisms behind biological phenomena. The technique is now being applied to drought resistance in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Drought is important because a considerable proportion of the world rice area is not irrigated and can be prone to water deficit. A large number of people, particular some of the poorest rice farmers, stand to gain if new varieties which combine high yield and drought resistance can be developed. Rice should be particularly useful for the molecular genetic analysis of drought resistance because of its growing role as a model monocot species and the diversity of drought resistance mechanisms which are found in the germplasm. We briefly review the traits which might be considered important in improving drought resistance in rice, before explaining the molecular mapping approach. We review progress at locating quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for individual mechanisms of drought resistance in controlled environment conditions. This includes a detailed comparison of reported QTLs related to root morphological characters. The search for QTLs associated with field performance under drought stress is analysed and the problems associated with understanding the genetic control of a complex physical and physiological phenomenon under conditions of substantial environmental variation are highlighted. We emphasise that the use of near isogenic lines in overcoming some of the problems offers considerable promise for the future.