Boosting rice yields per unit area could help mitigate future food shortages faced by Earth’s rapidly expanding population. Although rice breeders have developed cultivars that mature rapidly enough to produce more than one crop per year, shortening the growing season results in a correspondingly low yield.
Researchers suggest that naturally occurring variants in the Early flowering-completely dominant (Ef-cd) gene can be exploited to produce cultivars that mature more rapidly without incurring a yield penalty.
The authors demonstrate that Ef-cd lies in a quantitative trait locus associated with maturity duration and that its expression positively correlates with proteins related to flowering time.
Field tests revealed that near-isogenic cultivars with the early-maturing Ef-cd allele mature 7–20 days faster and produce yields that do not differ significantly from wild-type hybrids.
Furthermore, RNA sequencing and differentially expressed gene analyses reveal that Ef-cd upregulation increases nitrogen use efficiency and photosynthesis rates in rice plants.
The findings suggest that Ef-cd can be modified to produce rice cultivars that strike a balance between maturity time and yield, according to the authors.
Decreasing rice maturity time without affecting yield
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