13/06/2022. Project: BestRice "Integrated strategies for the development of sustainable rice production systems: developing new tools to promote the agroecological transition"

    Organization: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. Líneas estratégicas

    Duration: 2021-2023

    Summary: Rice is a crop with an important socio-cultural significance and economic relevance in Europe which also provides ecological support to environmentally fragile areas that need to be protected from agricultural waste. Fertilizers and pesticides are routinely used in rice cultivation to maintain optimal yield and to protect plants from diseases and competition from weeds. The use of these agrochemicals, however, has adverse effects on the environment and human health. On the other hand, rice is a water-demanding crop, and water scarcity (due to climate change and/or human demands) is threatening rice production. To face the societal request for sustainable agriculture with reduced use of agrochemicals and water consumption, there is a need to develop integrated strategies, using genetics and breeding strategies in combination with effective resource management with less input of agrochemicals. To achieve these objectives, this proposal aims to establish a breeding support platform that uses genetic resources in japonica rice (European rice varieties) for the identification of high-yielding rice varieties, better adapted to temperate climate, and to develop sustainable farming systems. Results derived from this project are expected to have an impact in both basic and applied research with a potential beneficial socio-economic effect. At the scientific level, BestRice will conduct a suit of experiments to better understand: (i) the genetic basis of traits with agronomic importance in japonica rice cultivars, and how genetic diversity can be used to improve nutrient use efficiency, yield and nutritional value of rice grains, disease resistance and weed competition; ii) the biological processes and molecular mechanisms underlying the interaction of rice plants with beneficial (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) and pathogenic (the rice blast fungus) microorganisms, and competitive plants, including those mechanisms related to nutrient use efficiency, immune response, and production of allelopathic compounds. At the technological level, BestRice aims (i) to reduce the use of agrochemicals (fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides), (ii) to make use of remote sensing technologies to monitor agronomic practices, and (iii) to exploit the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis for the development of water-saving cultivation systems. BestRice will facilitate the adoption of genomics-based precision breeding approaches (e.g. using molecular markers for efficient nutrient acquisition and disease resistance) and the implementation of best practices in rice cultivation. As a whole, outputs from BestRice will help farmers to face major challenges in rice cultivation through the generation of knowledge and tools to guide precise breeding and sustainable production systems, making use of interdisciplinary approaches and partners expertise. The involvement of the seed producer cooperative Copsemar in BestRice, representing farmers from all rice-growing areas in Spain, will ensure that results will be widely spread, while helping farmers to make informed decisions for a better use of rice genetic resources and management practices. It is also anticipated that BestRice will allow increasing farmer awareness on agroecological principles for the transition to sustainable rice production systems. Spain is the second rice producer in Europe and the development of more competitive and environmentally friendly rice varieties achieving their yield potential will ensure competitiveness in the rice sector by reducing costs and ecological footprint of rice production..