Improving Resilience to Drought in Rice and Sorghum through Mutation Breeding


Drought is the most devastating abiotic stress factor worldwide affecting crop production and projected to worsen with anticipated climate change. It severely limits plant growth and development as well as agricultural characteristics resulting in reduction of crop yields. Improving drought tolerance in crops, to increase the efficiency of water use and to enhance agricultural water productivity under rain-fed conditions is among top priority for most countries. Among various agro-ecologies, Africa and South Asia are considered to be the most vulnerable to climate change and both have large numbers of poor populations constrained with meagre access to basic resources of water and productive land. Despite the fact that rice, maize, sorghum and wheat are grown in arid and semi-arid tropical areas of Africa and South Asia, the occurrence of drought stress is a frequent phenomenon across these areas in rice, maize, sorghum and wheat belts during growing season, particularly during the flowering to grain filling period. Drought has been found to be one of the major environmental factors which limit both quantity and quality of rice, maize, sorhgum and wheat production in Africa and South Asia.

This CRP will focus on improving rice and sorghum to drought tolerance for current and future climate change scenarios. These two crops are essential staples in the diets of millions of impoverish and vulnerable populations, and therefore any attempt in increasing their yields under drought stress could have a major and positive impact in terms of food security and improved health and income generation. Up to ten research contracts are expected to be awarded and five no-cost agreement holders from advanced laboratories and research institutes with recognized expertise in the targeted technologies will be invited to share their experience with the contract holders and contribute to the development and validation of the planned technical packages. In addition, it is foreseen that two technical contracts will be awarded for services in advanced areas such as screening methods development and advanced efficiency enhancing technologies and mutant characterization. Coordination and technical management will be handled by the scientific secretary in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section.

Overall objective:

The overall objective of this CRP is to improve drought resilience of rice and sorghum germplasm through induced mutation and development/adaptation of screening techniques for sustainable food security.

Expected Outcomes:

  • 1. Adoption of efficient screening tools for characterization of drought tolerant germplasm by Member States.
  • 2. Improved drought tolerant mutant germplasm that enhance crop adaptation to climate change and food security.
  • 3. Enhanced national research capacities on drought tolerance.

Expected research outputs:

  • 1. Robust greenhouse, screen house and field based phenotyping screening protocols and guidelines developed for accelerated identification of drought tolerant rice and sorghum mutants.
  • 2. Experimental physiological, genetic and molecular protocols of mutants for confirmation drought tolerance.
  • 3. Drought tolerant rice and sorghum mutant germplasm identified for current and future climate change scenarios.
  • 4. Capacity building in efficient mutation breeding and screening techniques for drought tolerance in rice and sorghum.
  • 5. Scientific publications, guidelines, brochures and protocols generated from the findings of the research activities.

Project Officer:

F.Sarsu and A.M.A. Ghanim