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Quirky Rice May Speed Breeding of New Varieties

By Marcia Wood
January 19, 2001

Rice plants that boast traits like greater natural resistance to insects and the ability to thrive in salty soil might soon be developed more quickly and easily by rice breeders.

ARS geneticist Richard R.-C. Wang, working with university colleagues, discovered that a variety of rice from China called Zhongxin No. 1 has a quirk that may shorten the breeding process from 10 years to only 5 or so. Known as loss of heterozygosity or LOH, the trait causes the genetic makeup of some second-generation hybrid rice plants to become fixed, or constant, in subsequent generations.

Normally it takes many years of tedious, costly plant breeding before combinations of valued traits can become fixed in offspring of hybrid rice plants, Wang noted.

Wang and colleague Xiaomei Li, formerly at Utah State University, Logan, found that LOH occurred in some hybrids produced by fertilizing flowers of Zhongxin No. 1 plants with pollen from U.S. rice plants. The scientists are the first to find LOH in rice. Jiansan Chen of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, made the hybrids.

An recent article in ARS' Agricultural Research magazine tells more.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Richard R.-C. Wang, ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory, Logan, Utah, phone (435) 797-3222, fax (435) 797-3075,

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