9 May 2018
Developing rice varieties adapted to alternate wetting and drying water management is crucial for the sustainability of irrigated rice cropping systems. Here we report the first study exploring the feasibility of breeding rice for adaptation to alternate wetting and drying using genomic prediction methods that account for genotype by environment interactions. Two breeding populations (a reference panel of 284 accessions and a progeny population of 97 advanced lines) were evaluated under alternate wetting and drying and continuous flooding management systems. The predictive ability of genomic prediction for response variables (index of relative performance and the slope of the joint regression) and for multi-environment genomic prediction models were compared. For the three traits considered (days to flowering, panicle weight and nitrogen-balance index), significant genotype by environment interactions were observed in both populations. In cross validation, predictive ability for the index was on average lower (0.31) than that of the slope of the joint regression (0.64) whatever the trait considered. Similar results were found for progeny validation. Both cross-validation and progeny validation experiments showed that the performance of multi-environment models predicting unobserved phenotypes of untested entrees was similar to the performance of single environment models with differences in predictive ability ranging from -6–4% depending on the trait and on the statistical model concerned. The predictive ability of multi-environment models predicting unobserved phenotypes of entrees evaluated under both water management systems outperformed single environment models by an average of 30%. Practical implications for breeding rice for adaptation to alternate wetting and drying system are discussed.