Rice accessions from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) germplasm bank were evaluated for root traits of 40-day-old plants grown in soil in the greenhouse. The 136 accessions represented six groups defined on the basis of isozyme classification, with isozyme group six further subdivided on the basis of origin and morphology. An additional 28 rice cultivars were evaluated for seminal root xylem vessel diameter when grown in pots in a growth chamber. Rice groups differed in root thickness, root xylem vessel diameter, root:shoot ratio, and patterns of root distribution. Isozyme group 1, which corresponds generally to the indica subspecies, had thin, superficial roots with narrow vessels and a low root:shoot ratio. The other major isozyme group, group 6, comprising japonica types, was characterized by thick roots with wider vessels, a greater proportion of the root weight below 15cm, and a larger root:shoot ratio. On an average, the bulu and temperate group 6 accessions were similar to the non-bulu types except that their root:shoot ratios and proportion of root weight above 15cm were more similar to group 1. Group 2, with aus types from South Asia, was characterized by intermediate root thickness, but vertical root distribution and root:shoot ratio were more similar to group 6. The minor isozyme groups 3-5 were represented by few accessions, and in general, they had root thickness and root distribution profiles more similar to group 1 than to group 6. While significant differences were observed among isozyme groups for all the traits under study, there was significant variation within groups and groups overlapped for all traits measured. This study highlights the wide range of variability for constitutive root traits in rice. For example, root thickness ranged from 0.68 to 1.04mm, seminal root xylem vessel diameters from 30 to 58μm, root:shoot ratios from 0.05 to 0.21, and accessions had from 44 to 73% of the total root weight concentrated in the surface 15cm of soil. For the 28 cultivars evaluated, root xylem vessel diameter was highly correlated with reported values of leaf epicuticular wax content (r=0.89). These values indicate the range of genetic variation within the rice genome for root morphological traits.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.