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Submergence tolerance in relation to variable floodwater conditions in rice

Das, Krishna Kaveri, Panda, D., Sarkar, R.K., Reddy, J.N., Ismail, Abdelbagi M.
Environmental and experimental botany 2009 v.66 no.3 pp. 425-434
rice, Oryza sativa, seasonal variation, field experimentation, high-yielding varieties, carbon dioxide, submergence, phenotype, turbidity, dry matter accumulation, water temperature, oxygen, dryland farming, duration, flooded conditions, flooding tolerance, mortality, salinity, shade, pH, light
Flash floods adversely affect rice productivity in vast areas of rainfed lowlands in South and Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. Tolerant landraces that withstand submergence for 1-2 weeks were identified; however, incorporation of tolerance into modern high-yielding varieties through conventional breeding methods has been slow because of the complexity of both the tolerance phenotype and floodwater conditions, and the ensuing discrepancies encountered upon phenotyping in different environments. Designing an effective phenotyping strategy requires a thorough understanding of the specific floodwater characteristics that most likely affect survival during flooding. We investigated the implications of floodwater temperature and light penetration, caused by artificial shading, seasonal variation, or water turbidity, for seedling survival after submergence. Three field experiments were conducted using rice genotypes contrasting in their tolerance of submergence: FR13A and Kusuma (tolerant); Gangasiuli (intermediate); Sabita, CRK-2-6 and Raghukunwar (elongating/avoiding types); and IR42 (sensitive). We tested the hypotheses that warmer floodwater decreases plant survival and that turbid water augment plant mortality by causing effects similar to those caused by shading, by reducing light penetration. Plants survive better when water is cooler, and survival decreased at about 8% per unit increase in water temperature above 26°C. Lower intensity of light and warmer temperatures seem to reduce biomass and increase mortality under flooding. An increase in the concentrations of O₂ and CO₂ and a decrease in water pH did not improve survival in clear unshaded water. Turbid floodwater was more damaging to rice as plant mortality increased as the percentage of silt increased, and the effects of water turbidity cannot be explained by the reduction in light penetration alone. Even the most tolerant rice cultivar, FR13A, experienced higher mortality when flooded with turbid floodwater. Correlation studies revealed that cultivars with the capacity to maintain higher biomass, higher chlorophyll, and non-structural carbohydrate concentrations after submergence had higher survival. These findings help to understand the variation observed in submergence tolerance when screening is done under different environments. The study could have implications for designing proper screening strategies and assessing the damage submergence causes across different rice-growing regions.