Climate resilient crops

Dr Sigrid Heuer
Principal Scientist
Rothamsted Research
Identifying beneficial genes and pathways from heat-tolerant rice genotypes.

Heat stress is becoming an increasing problem due to climate change and crops need to be developed that maintain yield and grain quality under increasingly extreme and variable weather conditions.
High temperature stress causes different problems depending on when it occurs, i.e., during the vegetative growth stages or during reproductive growth, pre- and post-anthesis. Rice is most sensitive to heat stress at anthesis, whereas this is different in other crops, for example in wheat, pollen development is more heat sensitive. In both crops, grain quality is compromised under high temperature stress.

Heat tolerant genotypes have been identified in many crops, including rice, and the best characterized tolerant genotype is the aus-type rice variety N22. Reproductive tolerance in N22 has been studied in some detail in recent years, including RNAseq and metabolomics analyses, as well as QTL mapping studies. In a joined Rothamsted Research – University of Nottingham project (with Zoe Wilson), the work on N22 is now being continued and extended within a Future Food Beacon PhD project. In another PhD project within the same program (with Erik Murchie) we are using N22 and a panel of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) to identify heat tolerant genotypes, and to study the effect of heat on photorespiration and related nitrogen losses.
These rice projects are aligned with projects on heat tolerance in wheat and beans, all aiming at the identification of tolerance genes and pathways that might be used to make future crops more resilient.