Cooperation & Networking – Rice Breeding in Brazil

 The article below was published in the January 30, 2010 edition of Plant Breeding News, an Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding sponsored by GIPB, FAO/AGP and Cornell University’s Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics. It describes a new, large scale rice breeding project which is just being initiated in Brazil. Embrapa and its partners welcome international collaboration in the framework of this breeding network. 

“The Brazilian Corporation for Agricultural Research, Embrapa, leads a nationwide rice breeding program with the objective of developing better rice cultivars for all of the rice farming systems in Brazil. The program, started in 1978, has been traditionally composed by consecutive three-year projects, focusing on different aspects of rice breeding and genetics. The novelty is that the new project, started in September 2009, is a four-year project unifying all of the previous projects in a single framework, putting together the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of 81 rice scientists.

The new project received the nickname of MelhorArroz, a contraction for breeding better rice, in Portuguese, and has the ambitious goal of becoming a reference in rice breeding worldwide. For achieving this goal, Embrapa counts with the partnership of Irga (the Rice Institute of the State of Rio Grande do Sul), Epagri (Santa Catarina State Agricultural Research and Rural Extension Agency), several other research or rural extension companies from the States of Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Goiás and Tocantins, besides a number of Brazilian Universities. The project leader is Dr. Orlando Peixoto de Morais, a senior scientist at Embrapa Rice and Beans, located in Santo Antônio de Goiás. Irga and Epagri will continue their independent, state-level breeding programs, which are expected to tap novel and useful variability from the nationwide project. Dr. Morais believes that this new scheme can create the conditions for effective collaboration between public breeding programs in Brazil.        

The MelhorArroz Project have several target environments, including subtropical irrigated rice for the South, tropical irrigated rice for the center and the Northeast, upland rice for the Center and the West, and rainfed lowland rice for the State of Maranhão. Breeding lines are selected for strict grain quality standards, namely, vitreous long and slender, non-sticky and soft cooking grains. Disease resistance is evaluated throughout the program. The breeding method is a modified pedigree scheme, with recombination in the F5 generation, inspired in the recurrent selection methods. Molecular markers will be used in several stages of the project, including monitoring the variability of synthetic populations, QTL mapping for pest resistance and grain quality, marker-assisted selection of disease resistance genes and fingerprinting of new varieties.

Although the project is focused on Brazil, Embrapa and partners welcome international collaboration in rice breeding and genetics, with potential for increasing food security and reducing the environmental cost of rice production. Contacts should be directed to Embrapa Rice and Beans, Deputy Director of R&D, Dr. Flavio Breseghello.”

Contributed by Dr. Pericles Neves.  For more information and contact information, visit



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