Ajmera I, Henry A, Radanielson AM, Klein SP, Ianevski A, Bennett MJ, Band LR, JP Lynch


Plant, Cell & Environment, 2022 45:805-822

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Greater nitrogen efficiency would substantially reduce the economic, energy and environmental costs of rice production. We hypothesised that synergistic balancing of the costs and benefits for soil exploration among root architectural phenes is beneficial under suboptimal nitrogen availability. An enhanced implementation of the functional-structural model OpenSimRoot for rice integrated with the ORYZA_v3 crop model was used to evaluate the utility of combinations of root architectural phenes, namely nodal root angle, proportion of smaller diameter nodal roots, nodal root number; and L-type and S-type lateral branching densities, for plant growth under low nitrogen. Multiple integrated root phenotypes were identified with greater shoot biomass under low nitrogen than the reference cultivar IR64. The superiority of these phenotypes was due to synergism among root phenes rather than the expected additive effects of phene states. Representative optimal phenotypes were predicted to have up to 80% greater grain yield with low N supply in the rainfed dry-direct seeded agrosystem over future weather conditions, compared to IR64. These phenotypes merit consideration as root ideotypes for breeding rice cultivars with improved yield under rainfed dry direct-seeded conditions with limited nitrogen availability. The importance of phene synergism for the performance of integrated phenotypes has implications for crop breeding.