Accurately predicting responses to selection is a major goal in biology and important for successful crop breeding in changing environments. However, evolutionary responses to selection can be constrained by such factors as genetic and cross-environment correlations, linkage, and pleiotropy, and our understanding of the extent and impact of such constraints is still developing. Here, we conducted a field experiment to investigate potential constraints to selection for drought resistance in rice (Oryza sativa) using phenotypic selection analysis and quantitative genetics. We found that traits related to drought response were heritable, and some were under selection, including selection for earlier flowering, which could allow drought escape. However, patterns of selection generally were not opposite under wet and dry conditions, and we did not find individual or closely linked genes that influenced multiple traits, indicating a lack of evidence that antagonistic pleiotropy, linkage, or cross-environment correlations would constrain selection for drought resistance. In most cases, genetic correlations had little influence on responses to selection, with direct and indirect selection largely congruent. The exception to this was seed mass under drought, which was predicted to evolve in the opposite direction of direct selection due to correlations. Because of this indirect effect on selection on seed mass, selection for drought resistance was not accompanied by a decrease in seed mass, and yield increased with fecundity. Furthermore, breeding lines with high fitness and yield under drought also had high fitness and yield under wet conditions, indicating that there was no evidence for a yield penalty on drought resistance. We found multiple genes in which expression influenced both water use efficiency (WUE) and days to first flowering, supporting a genetic basis for the trade-off between drought escape and avoidance strategies. Together, these results can provide helpful guidance for understanding and managing evolutionary constraints and breeding stress-resistant crops.
- drought resistance
- genetic architecture
- natural selection
- Oryza sativa
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)