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Steady agronomic and genetic interventions are essential for sustaining productivity in intensive rice cropping
Thursday, 2021/11/18 | 10:05:53

Jagdish K. Ladha, Ando M. Radanielson, Jessica Elaine Rutkoski, Roland J. Buresh, Achim Dobermann, Olivyn Angeles, Irish Lorraine B. Pabuayon, Christian Santos-Medellín, Roberto Fritsche-Neto, Pauline Chivenge, and Ajay Kohli


PNAS November 9, 2021 118 (45) e2110807118


Steady agronomic and genetic interventions helped sustain high annual rice production in an intensive irrigated monoculture system under a changing climate. However, the system did not achieve the increases in yield required to keep pace with the growing global demand for rice because annual yield potential was stagnant, and apparent biotic constraints limited yield in the wet season.


Intensive systems with two or three rice (Oryza sativa L.) crops per year account for about 50% of the harvested area for irrigated rice in Asia. Any reduction in productivity or sustainability of these systems has serious implications for global food security. Rice yield trends in the world’s longest-running long-term continuous cropping experiment (LTCCE) were evaluated to investigate consequences of intensive cropping and to draw lessons for sustaining production in Asia. Annual production was sustained at a steady level over the 50-y period in the LTCCE through continuous adjustment of management practices and regular cultivar replacement. Within each of the three annual cropping seasons (dry, early wet, and late wet), yield decline was observed during the first phase, from 1968 to 1990. Agronomic improvements in 1991 to 1995 helped to reverse this yield decline, but yield increases did not continue thereafter from 1996 to 2017. Regular genetic and agronomic improvements were sufficient to maintain yields at steady levels in dry and early wet seasons despite a reduction in the yield potential due to changing climate. Yield declines resumed in the late wet season. Slower growth in genetic gain after the first 20 y was associated with slower breeding cycle advancement as indicated by pedigree depth. Our findings demonstrate that through adjustment of management practices and regular cultivar replacement, it is possible to sustain a high level of annual production in irrigated systems under a changing climate. However, the system was unable to achieve further increases in yield required to keep pace with the growing global rice demand.


See https://www.pnas.org/content/118/45/e2110807118

Fig. 1.

Annual rice production (observed and potential) in the LTCCE over the period from 1968 to 2017 and average production gap from 1968 to 2017. Annual production potential was computed as the sum of climatic yield potential simulated for DS, EWS, and LWS for each year averaged across three cultivars. Observed annual production was computed as the sum of observed yield for DS, EWS, and LWS for each year averaged across the cultivars and the two highest fertilizer-N levels used in the LTCCE. The annual production gap is the difference between the annual production potential and the observed production expressed in % of the annual production potential. Slopes of linear regression of potential and observed annual production with years during the phase 1 period (1968 to 1990) and during phase 2 (1996 to 2017) are presented with level of significance labeled as *** (P < 0.001) or ns (nonsignificant). In 1985, the observed yield for LWS was excluded in the total annual production because the crop was damaged by a typhoon.

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