Flooding-adaptive root and shoot traits in rice

Chen Lin, Zhao Zhang, Xuwen Shen, Dan Liu, Ole Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Wetland plants, including rice (Oryza spp.), have developed multiple functional adaptive traits to survive soil flooding, partial submergence or even complete submergence. In waterlogged soils and under water, diffusion of O2 and CO2 is extremely slow with severe impacts on photosynthesis and respiration. As a response to shallow floods or rising floodwater, several rice varieties, including deepwater rice, elongate their stems to keep their leaves above the water surface so that photosynthesis can occur unhindered during partial submergence. In stark contrast, some other varieties hardly elongate even if they become completely submerged. Instead, their metabolism is reduced to an absolute minimum so that carbohydrates are conserved enabling fast regrowth once the floodwater recedes. This review focuses on the fascinating functional adaptive traits conferring tolerance to soil flooding, partial or complete submergence. We provide a general analysis of these traits focusing on molecular, anatomical and morphological, physiological and ecological levels. Some of these key traits have already been introgressed into modern high-yielding genotypes improving flood tolerance of several cultivars used by millions of farmers in Asia. However, with the ongoing changes in climate, we propose that even more emphasis should be placed on improving flood tolerance of rice by breeding for rice that can tolerate longer periods of complete submergence or stagnant flooding. Such tolerance could be achieved via additional tissues; i.e. aquatic adventitious roots relevant during partial submergence, and leaves with higher underwater photosynthesis caused by a longer gas film retention time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberFP23226
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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