Introgression of a functional epigenetic OsSPL14WFP allele into elite indica rice genomes greatly improved panicle traits and grain yield.
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Rice yield potential has been stagnant since the Green Revolution in the late 1960s, especially in tropical rice cultivars. We evaluated the effect of two major genes that regulate grain number, Gn1a/OsCKX2 and IPA1/WFP/OsSPL14, in elite indica cultivar backgrounds. The yield-positive Gn1a-type 3 and OsSPL14(WFP) alleles were introgressed respectively through marker-assisted selection (MAS). The grain numbers per panicle (GNPP) were compared between the recipient allele and the donor allele groups using segregating plants in BC3F2 and BC3F3 generations. There was no significant difference in GNPP between the two Gn1a alleles, suggesting that the Gn1a-type 3 allele was not effective in indica cultivars. However, the OsSPL14WFP allele dramatically increased GNPP by 10.6-59.3% in all four different backgrounds across cropping seasons and generations, indicating that this allele provides strong genetic gain to elite indica cultivars. Eventually, five high-yielding breeding lines were bred using the OsSPL14WFP allele by MAS with a conventional breeding approach that showed increased grain yield by 28.4-83.5% (7.87-12.89 t/ha) vis-a-vis the recipient cultivars and exhibited higher yield (similar to 64.7%) than the top-yielding check cultivar, IRRI 156 (7.82 t/ha). We demonstrated a strong possibility to increase the genetic yield potential of indica rice varieties through allele mining and its application.
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