Periodic Reporting for period 3 - NEURICE (New commercial EUropean RICE (Oryza sativa) harbouring salt tolerance alleles to protect the rice sector against climate change and apple snail (Pomacea insularum) invasion)
Berichtszeitraum: 2019-03-01 bis 2020-02-29
The NEURICE project (New commercial European RICE) is aiming to obtain new varieties of salt-tolerant rice. Varieties of European rice will thereby be obtained which are suited to the new conditions, thus enabling rice growing to continue without losing productivity and maintaining the positive environmental, scenic and socio-economic impact of this activity.
In addition, in Catalonia, the Ebro Delta has been threatened for a number of years by an invasive species which has devastating effects on the rice harvest: the giant apple snail (Pomacea maculata). Its high reproductive capacity and the absence of natural predators means it has been impossible to halt its expansion within the Delta, causing increasing damage to crops. Flooding fields with seawater has been one of the few strategies which has managed to curb the presence of the giant apple snail, taking advantage of the fact that it does not tolerate high salinity levels. Unfortunately, the residual salinity following the treatment with seawater generates losses in the crops which, in the worst cases, can affect up to 30% of production.
Therefore, the NEURICE project not only provides a solution for adapting rice varieties to climate change, it will also enable us to combat the invasion of the apple snail in Europe.
The NEURICE project has also begun to monitor the salinity of some saline fields in Spain, France and Italy in order to conduct trials of new salt tolerant varieties of rice being developed. For several months, the salinity of the water and the soil of the rice fields, the height of the water’s surface and the salinity of the water flowing in and out of fields will be monitored closely.
Next season, the new strains of rice are expected to be ready for planting, so that they can be evaluated in both saline and non-saline fields.
Furthermore, parallel genome and proteome studies are being performed over the most tolerant to salinity rice varieties from around the world in order to determine which mechanisms, genes and alleles allow those plants to grow in highly saline environments.
The new salt tolerant elite European rice varieties will be obtained with a novel breeding strategy that includes molecular marker assisted breeding coupled with embryo rescue on immature seeds. This new improved salt tolerant varieties will allow maintaining the natural environment of the rice growing regions as well as increasing rice diversity for a higher adaptability to particular environments, including abiotic and biotic stresses tolerance to face a changing climate scenario.
Interestingly, the apple snail dispersion throughout Europe can be stopped or even eradicated thanks to the availability of these new salt tolerant European varieties, as seawater treatments of infested fields (that proved 100% efficacy) can be resumed, avoiding less effective and highly contaminant chemical strategies. Furthermore, the dry seeding studies are demonstrating that salt-tolerant varieties will be crucial to minimize apple snail effects even without seawater treatments, since the snail rests dormant during the initial stages of growth when rice is vulnerable.
Over a longer term, knowledge and tools created shall support productivity and stability of the agricultural sector in Europe and possible beyond. Along with developing new salt tolerant varieties, a wireless salinity monitoring sensor network will be developed by IRIS, which will alert the rice farmers and cooperatives of salinity increments so they can shift to grow the salt tolerant varieties developed in the project.
Identification of mild salt stress tolerant loci and accessions in japonica background through utilization of mapping approaches coupled with non-destructive phenotyping will permit advancing in rice salt tolerance knowledge and, as a consequence, will permit introducing other additive salt tolerance-related alleles to further increase the rice salt tolerance in future rice breeding programs.
Moreover, the NEURICE project will support the development of an innovative ecosystem in the agrifood sector in the EU and the development of the European Innovation Partnership on productive and sustainable agriculture (EIP-AGRI).