Zn uptake, translocation and grain Zn loading in rice (Oryza sativa L.) genotypes selected for Zn deficiency tolerance and high grain Zn

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Zn deficiency is a widespread problem in rice (Oryza sativa L.) grown under flooded conditions, limiting growth and grain Zn accumulation. Genotypes with Zn deficiency tolerance or high grain Zn have been identified in breeding programmes, but little is known about the physiological mechanisms conferring these traits. A protocol was developed for growing rice to maturity in agar nutrient solution (ANS), with optimum Zn-sufficient growth achieved at 1.5 μM ZnSO4.7H2O. The redox potential in ANS showed a decrease from +350 mV to −200 mV, mimicking the reduced conditions of flooded paddy soils. In subsequent experiments, rice genotypes contrasting for Zn deficiency tolerance and grain Zn were grown in ANS with sufficient and deficient Zn to assess differences in root uptake of Zn, root-to-shoot Zn translocation, and in the predominant sources of Zn accumulation in the grain. Zn efficiency of a genotype was highly influenced by root-to-shoot translocation of Zn and total Zn uptake. Translocation of Zn from root to shoot was more limiting at later growth stages than at the vegetative stage. Under Zn-sufficient conditions, continued root uptake during the grain-filling stage was the predominant source of grain Zn loading in rice, whereas, under Zn-deficient conditions, some genotypes demonstrated remobilization of Zn from shoot and root to grain in addition to root uptake. Understanding the mechanisms of grain Zn loading in rice is crucial in selecting high grain Zn donors for target-specific breeding and also to establish fertilizer and water management strategies for achieving high grain Zn.

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