Breeding investigations for salt tolerance in rice incorporating characterisation of salt affected soils and farmers perceptions and preferences for tolerant cultivars in north-eastern Tanzania.
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Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the principal crop of North Eastern Tanzania but production is threatened by salt affected soils, drought and the use of un-adapted cultivars, among other constraints. Little research and hardly any breeding have been done on the aspects of salt tolerance of the crop in sub Saharan Africa, leading to low yields and low production in rice irrigation schemes under arid and semi arid conditions. A project was therefore implemented in North Eastern Tanzania during 2007-2010 seasons to investigate the possible breeding contributions to enhance productivity and production of the crop in salt affected areas. The objective of this study was to: a) determine farmers’ perceptions on both salt problems and their effects on rice crop productivity as well as establishing farmers’ needs and preferences for rice varieties in the targeted irrigated environment; b) determine the extent of salt problem in both soil and irrigation water in the available rice irrigation schemes in the North-eastern Tanzania; c) identify the major physiological mechanisms associated with salt tolerance in farmer-preferred native varieties and landraces; and d) determine the mode of inheritance of salt tolerance in rice. Participatory rural appraisal was conducted in Mkomazi and Mombo villages in Tanga region with the aim of understanding characteristics of rice–based farm economy, farmers’ perception of agriculture constraints and variety preferences in salt affected areas of North-eastern Tanzania. This was followed by a preliminary study to understand soil characteristics in relation to salt problems and its extent in selected nine rice irrigation schemes. Studies was established under controlled conditions to assess the salt tolerance of some rice farmers preferred rice cultivar and evaluate the putative traits in the rice materials that contribute to the performance of a genotype under saline and saline-sodic condition. Thereafter, genetic mechanism governing various morpho-physiological parameters in selected Tanzania local farmers’ preferred varieties and salt tolerant donors under saline and sodic soil conditions of North Eastern Tanzania were determined. A participatory rural appraisal (PRA) established that rice was a major staple food and cash crop and rice farming was a major economic activity in the area. However, soil degradation through increased salt affected soils was identified as the major factor responsible for irrigated rice yield decline. Major varieties grown are salt sensitive, and salt tolerant varieties were not available. The study also revealed that most farmers’ preferred traits of rice cultivars were high yield potential, aroma, early maturing, medium plant stature, tolerance to salt and drought. Improvement of these characters in new salt tolerant varieties would increase food production in fields with low or zero productivity and the well-being of the poor farmers. A soil characterisation study indicated the magnitude of the problem, whereby, seven out of nine studied irrigation schemes were affected and sodic and saline-sodic conditions were the dominant types of soils. Poor irrigation canals and management of irrigation water were the driving factors that contributed to salts accumulation causing a decline in productivity. Experiments were established under controlled environments to evaluate the tolerance of 10 and 11 rice genotypes under saline and saline-sodic stresses, respectively. Significant variation between genotype and significant interactions between genotype and salt treatment (P<0.001) were observed for all characters studied. Genotype Pokkalli, IR 67076-2B-21-2 and IR 56 showed superior performance under saline, whereas CSR 27, Nerica 2 and IR 56 had superior performance under saline-sodic. The study therefore established that, all the local farmer preferred cultivars except IR 56 performed poorly under both salt stress environments. High seedling vigour, less leaf injury, less Na+ and high K+ accumulation in leaves, low Na+/K+ ratio of ion uptake, high spikelet fertility, increased grains per panicle and 1000 grain weight were considered as the desirable characteristics therefore can be used in developing lines for salt tolerance for production under saline and saline - sodic conditions. Gene action and combining ability studies for nine morpho-physiological traits were studied under normal, saline and sodic soil environments. The rice populations were generated through 7 x 7 full diallel crosses and advanced to F2. The parents comprised two donors for saline tolerance, one donor for sodic tolerance and four salt sensitive farmers preferred varieties. Both additive and non-additive gene effects were important in the inheritance of the characters studied in all soil environments. However, additive effects were more important for the number of tillers, shoot Na+, Na+/K+ ratio and plant height. Both additive and non-additive gene effects were important for spikelet fertility, days to 50% flowering, number of grains per panicle, 1000 grain weight, and grain yield; however the magnitude of additive gene effect was higher than non additive effects. Amongst the parental lines, the best general combiners for yield along with other traits were TXD 306 and IR 67076-2B-21-2 under normal non-saline/sodic condition; IR 56, Pokalli and TXD 306 under saline condition and CSR 27 and TXD 306 under sodic conditions. The overall results from this study indicated the possibility of improving both yield and salt tolerance from this set of germplasm; therefore contributing to increasing rice yields in the marginal salt affected environments.
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