Increasing world rice production is vital to meet the dietary demands of growing global population. In Malaysia, rice is the most important food crop and is cultivated in about 0.6 million ha of arable land in the country. Conventional rice breeding carried out for the last 45 years resulted in the release of about 40 commercial modern cultivars having an average yield of about 5 tons ha-1. Despite these advances, rice production is inadequate and has been on a plateau in recent years in rice producing and exporting countries. The introduction of genes from wild sources is one approach to further improve yield and yield related traits besides resistance to biotic and abiotic stress which has been demonstrated in many crop species. It is believed that the process of introducing the wild genes will reintroduce gene/traits that have gradually been weaned out due to the process of domestication.

Though the wild germplasm may not phenotypically show high yields but it is quite possible that some favourable genes may lay dormant amidst the thousands of wild accessions that could result in crop improvement. Oryza rufipogon genes imparted additional traits or improved the existing agronomic traits of O. sativa such as perenniality, better yield performance in upland or lowland conditions, grain quality, floral morphology, blast resistance and flood tolerance.

UKM had successfully transferred favourable wild alleles from O. rufipogon into O. sativa subsp. indica cv MR219 through advanced backcross breeding and developed four transgressive variants with high yield and early maturity and two transgressive variants with low to intermediate glycaemic index and high antioxidants. The new rice variety with low glycaemic index can be positioned as an agricultural solution to the increasing diabetic population in Malaysia and worldwide.

Key publications on these findings are given below:

  1. Sabu K.K., Abdullah M.Z., Lim L.S. and Wickneswari R. 2006. Development and evaluation of advanced backcross families of rice for agronomically important traits. Communications in Biometry and Crop Science 1(2):111-123.
  2. Sabu K.K., Abdullah M.Z., Lim L.S. and Wickneswari R. 2009. Analysis of heritability and environmental variances in a rice cross. Agronomy Research 7: 97-102.
  3. Bhuiyan M.A.R., Narimah M.K., Abdul Rahim H., Abdullah M. Z., Wickneswari R. 2010. Transgressive variants for red pericarp grain with high yield potential derived from Oryza rufipogon x Oryza sativa: Field evaluation, screening for blast disease, QTL validation and background marker analysis for agronomic traits. Field Crops Research 121:232-239.
  4. Tilakavati Karupaiah, Chuah Khun Aik, Tan Choon Heen, Satiapoorany Subramaniam, Atiqur R Bhuiyan, Parviz Fasahat, Abdullah M Zain  and Wickneswari Ratnam. A transgressive brown rice mediates favourable glycemic and insulin responses. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture 91: 1951–1956.
  5. Wickneswari R., M.A.R. Bhuiyan, K. K. Sabu, L.S. Lim, M.J. Thomson, Narimah M.K., Abdullah M. Z. 2012. Identification and validation of quantitative trait loci for agronomic traits in advanced backcross breeding lines derived from Oryza rufipogon x Oryza sativa cultivar MR219. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 30:929– DOI: 10.1007/s11105-011-0404-4.
  6. Fasahat P, Abdullah A, Muhammad K, Karupaiah T, Ratnam W (2012) Red pericarp advanced breeding lines derived from Oryza rufipogon × Oryza sativa: Physicochemical properties, total antioxidant activity, phenolic compounds and vitamin E content. Advance Journal of Food Science and Technology. 4(3): 155-165.
  7. Fasahat P., Muhammad K., Aminah A. & Wickneswari R. 2012. Amylose Content and Grain Length of New Rice Transgressive Variants Derived from a Cross Between rufipogon and Malaysian Rice Cultivar MR219. International Journal on Advanced Science E n g i n e e r i n g Information Technology. 2(4):20-23.
  8. Rahim H.A., M.A.R. Bhuiyan, L.S. Lim, K.K. Sabu, A. Saad, M. Azhar and Wickneswari. 2012. Identification of quantitative trait loci for blast resistance in BC2F3 and BC2F5 advanced backcross families of rice. Genetics and Molecular Research 11 (3): 3277-3289. DOI: 10.4238/2012.September.12.11
  9. Fasahat P., Muhammad K., Aminah A. and Wickneswari R. 2012. Proximate nutritional composition and antioxidant properties of Oryza rufipogon, a wild rice collected from Malaysia compared to cultivated rice, MR219. Australian Journal of Crop Science 6(11):1502-1507.
  10. Fasahat P., Muhammad K., Abdullah A. and Wickneswari R. 2012. Identification of introgressed alien chromosome segments associated with grain quality in Oryza rufipogon x MR219 advanced breeding lines using SSR markers. Genetics and Molecular Research 11 (3): 3534-3546.
  11. Fasahat, P., Abdullah, A., Muhammad, K., Musa, K.H. and Wickneswari, R New red rice transgressive variants with high antioxidant capacity. International Food Research Journal 20(3): 1497-1501.
  12. Wickneswari R. and Bhuiyan M.A.R. 2014. Exploiting wild accessions for development of new rice genotypes for high yield. Malaysian Applied Biology 43(2):89-95.
  13. Fasahat P., Kharidah M., Aminah A., Bhuiyan M.A.R., Ngu M.S., Gauch Jr H.G.., Wickneswari R. 2014. Genotype × environment assessment for grain quality traits in rice. Communications in Biometry and Crop Science 9(2):71–82.