Natural and human-mediated selection in a landrace of Thai rice (Oryza sativa)
Landrace rice in Thailand consists of managed populations grown under traditional and long-standing agricultural practices. These populations evolve both in response to environmental conditions within the local agro-ecosystem and in response to human activities. Single landraces are grown across varying environments and recently have experienced temporal changes in local environments due to climate change. Here we assess the interplay between natural selection in a changing climate and human-mediated selection on the population genetic structure of Muey Nawng, a local landrace of Thai rice. Genetic diversity and population structure of landrace rice were assessed by a STRUCTURE analysis of 20 microsatellite loci. The first exon–intron junction of the waxy gene was sequenced to determine genotypes for glutinous or non-glutinous grain starch. Muey Nawng rice is genetically variable and is structured based on starch grain types and the level of resistance to gall midge pest. A strong positive correlation was found between genetic diversity and the percentage of gall midge infestation. Variation in the waxy locus is correlated with starch quality; selection for non-glutinous rice appears to involve additional genes. The dynamics of genetic diversity within Muey Nawng rice depends on three factors: (a) a genetic bottleneck caused by strong selection associated with gall midge infestation, (b) selection by local farmers for starch quality and (c) variation introduced by farmer practices for cultivation and seed exchange. These results, when taken in total, document the ability of landrace rice to quickly evolve in response to both natural and human-mediated selection.