of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Australia-China linkage for improved rice cold tolerance

Overview of Project

This small research activity supported important collaboration between Australian and Chinese rice breeders in the development of cold tolerance in rice varieties for both countries. This is a high priority issue for Australia but of even greater importance in China. This project aimed to enhance linkages between Australian and Chinese rice research programs with a specific focus on improving rice cold tolerance. The project also enabled Australia to transfer new molecular marker technologies to China, and these will have an impact on China’s cold-tolerant activities as well as other plant breeding efforts. Planting cold-tolerant varieties will prevent substantial yield losses in cold years in both countries; planting these varieties also means that farmers can significantly reduce water usage.

Key Outcomes of Project

One major goal of this project was achieved through an International Rice Cold Tolerance Workshop convened at Yanco Agricultural Institute in December 2006. The workshop reviewed rice production and research related to cold tolerance in Yunnan province in south-western China, Guangxi province in southern China, and Beijing, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces in the northern and north-eastern regions of China.

A prime focus of the workshop was Yunnan, which was highlighted as part of the centre of diversity of the ‘japonica’ sub-species of rice. Yunnan’s unique geography has resulted in development of cold-tolerant landraces across the significant altitude range under which rice evolution and domestication has taken place within the province. Recent genetic conservation efforts and diversity studies have significant potential to identify new sources of cold tolerance (in addition to the existing genes for cold tolerance that have become relatively widespread in temperate rice breeding programs).

Further, Yunnan offers high altitude sites with naturally occurring low temperatures for broad-scale phenotyping for cold tolerance, allowing benchmarking studies of existing cultivars and selection within segregating populations. This linkage project has enabled such collaborative evaluations to take place. Further opportunities for exchange of germplasm and sharing of information on selection techniques were apparent from Liaoning and Heilongjiang. Here selection for cold tolerance is carried out in managed environments, specifically using low-temperature groundwater to irrigate the rice during critical sensitive stages, similar to the methodology used for rice improvement programs in South Korea and Japan.

The workshop also explored the ascendancy of aerobic rices (grown without standing water), under development in northern China in response to increasing competition for water resources and the consequent need to grow rice using less water. In temperate environments cold tolerance is a critical adaptive trait for any production system in which there is no standing water of any depth on the field. This is because the thermal mass of the water buffers the temperature of the base of the rice plant, preventing temperature excursions to the ambient maximum and minimum. This diurnal range is often more than 10C in temperate environments and minimum ambient temperatures regularly fall below the threshold for damage. Hence the need for cold tolerance as one of the suite of adaptive traits required for successful aerobic rice production.

The second part of the project allowed a small group of Australian rice researchers to visit a range of locations in China to maintain and extend established scientific links. The group explored research activities at a provincial and national level. Specific outcomes from the visit included: 1) the exchange of germplasm between breeding programs; 2) the development of two research-concept notes - one to focus on elucidating further genes and/or mechanisms for cold tolerance from within the germplasm resources in Yunnan, the other to set up a collaboration to test a segregating population under naturally occurring cold conditions.

A further concept note centred on the development of varieties adapted to aerobic conditions, building on the strengths of each of the research groups. The Chinese research component has continued to study root traits, while the Australian component is focusing on above-ground traits.

A final legacy of this linkage project is the ongoing involvement in the Temperate Rice Research Consortium, an affiliation between research programs in temperate rice-producing countries."

Project Dates

01 May 2006 - 30 Jun 2009


Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Science - China
Diversity Arrays Pty Ltd - Australia
CSIRO Plant Industry - Australia
Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Science - China


Dr Russell Reinke



02 6951 2516

Launch Website