African Oryza glaberrima and Oryza sativa landraces are considered valuable resources for breeding traits due to their adaptation to local environmental and soil conditions.

They often possess superior resistance to endemic pests and tolerance to drought and nutrient deficiencies when compared to the “imported” high production Asian rice varieties. In contrast, “domestication traits” such as seed shattering, lodging, and seed yield are not well established in these African landraces. Therefore, the use of these African varieties for high production agriculture is limited by unpredictable yield and grain quality. We are addressing this shortcoming by developing protocols for genetically transforming African landraces to allow the use of CRISPR-Cas mediated breeding approaches. Here we use as proof of concept the cultivated African landrace Kabre to target selected known “domestication loci” and improve the agronomic potential of Kabre rice. Stable genetic transformation with CRISPR-Cas9-based vectors generated single and simultaneous multiple gene knockouts. Plants with reduced stature to diminish lodging were generated by disrupting the HTD1 gene. Furthermore, three loci shown to control seed size and/or yield (GS3GW2 and GN1A) were targeted using a multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 construct. This resulted in mutants with significantly improved seed yield. Our study provides an example of how new breeding technologies can accelerate the development of highly productive African landrace rice varieties, an important advancement considering that Africa is a hotspot for worldwide population growth and therefore prone to food shortage.

 

See https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0229782