Drought tolerance is a major challenge in breeding rice for unfavorable environments. In this study, we used a panel of 180 Vietnamese rice landraces genotyped with 21,623 single-nucleotide polymorphism markers to perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for different drought response and recovery traits during the vegetative stage.

These landraces originate from different geographical locations and are adapted to different agrosystems characterized by contrasted water regimes. Vietnamese landraces are often underrepresented in international panels used for GWAS, but they can contain original genetic determinants related to drought resistance.


The panel of 180 rice varieties was phenotyped under greenhouse conditions for several drought-related traits in an experimental design with 3 replicates. Plants were grown in pots for 4 weeks and drought-stressed by stopping irrigation for an additional 4 weeks. Droughtsensitivity scores and leaf relative water content were measured throughout the drought stress. The recovery capacity was measured 2 weeks after plant rewatering. Several QTLs associated with these drought tolerance traits were identified by GWAS using a mixed model with control of structure and kinship. The number of detected QTLs consisted of 14 for leaf relative water content, 9 for slope of relative water content, 12 for drought sensitivity score, 3 for recovery ability and 1 for relative crop growth rate. This set of 39 QTLs actually corresponded to a total of 17 different QTLs because 9 were simultaneously associated with two or more traits, which indicates that these common loci may have pleiotropic effects on drought-related traits. No QTL was found in association with the same traits in both the indica and japonica subpanels. The possible candidate genes underlying the quantitative trait loci are reviewed.


Some of the identified QTLs contain promising candidate genes with a function related to drought tolerance by osmotic stress adjustment.