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Rice with reduced stomatal density conserves water and has improved drought tolerance under future climate conditions

Caine, Robert S.; Yin, Xiaojia; Sloan, Jennifer; Harrison, Emily L.; Mohammed, Umar; Fulton, Timothy; Biswal, Akshaya K.; Dionora, Jacqueline; Chater, Caspar C.; Coe, Robert A.; Bandyopadhyay, Anindya; Murchie, Erik H.; Swarup, Ranjan; Quick, W. Paul; Gray, Julie E.


Robert S. Caine

Xiaojia Yin

Jennifer Sloan

Emily L. Harrison

Umar Mohammed

Timothy Fulton

Akshaya K. Biswal

Jacqueline Dionora

Caspar C. Chater

Robert A. Coe

Anindya Bandyopadhyay

Professor of Applied Plant Physiology

W. Paul Quick

Julie E. Gray


Much of humanity relies on rice (Oryza sativa) as a food source, but cultivation is water intensive and the crop is vulnerable to drought and high temperatures. Under climate change, periods of reduced water availability and high temperature are expected to become more frequent, leading to detrimental effects on rice yields.
We engineered the high-yielding rice cultivar ‘IR64’ to produce fewer stomata by manipulating the level of a developmental signal. We overexpressed the rice epidermal patterning factor OsEPF1, creating plants with substantially reduced stomatal density and correspondingly low stomatal conductance.
Low stomatal density rice lines were more able to conserve water, using c. 60% of the normal amount between weeks 4 and 5 post germination. When grown at elevated atmospheric CO2, rice plants with low stomatal density were able to maintain their stomatal conductance and survive drought and high temperature (40°C) for longer than control plants. Low stomatal density rice gave equivalent or even improved yields, despite a reduced rate of photosynthesis in some conditions.
Rice plants with fewer stomata are drought tolerant and more conservative in their water use, and they should perform better in the future when climate change is expected to threaten food security.


Caine, R. S., Yin, X., Sloan, J., Harrison, E. L., Mohammed, U., Fulton, T., …Gray, J. E. (2019). Rice with reduced stomatal density conserves water and has improved drought tolerance under future climate conditions. New Phytologist, 221(1), 371-384.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 10, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2018
Publication Date Jan 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jul 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 26, 2018
Journal New Phytologist
Print ISSN 0028-646X
Electronic ISSN 1469-8137
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 221
Issue 1
Pages 371-384
Keywords climate change, drought,epidermal pattering factor, heat stress, rice, stomata, water conservation
Public URL
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