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A fundamental achievement towards rice sustainability in Central and West Asia

Due to the climate change, land degradation and the growing global population, increasing rice production and yield is needed more than ever. This increase in production should be accompanied by less land and water use. So, increasing rice production is a major challenge today. At least a 50 percent increase in rice production is due to the adaptation of new varieties. In this regard, the Central and West Asian Rice Center (CWARice) had a special look at research, education and development on rice breeding since its inception. Furthermore,  around six years of scientific and research experience within the domain of rice R & D in Central and West Asian countries entered CWARice into a new phase of coordination with member countries. So that, the 5-year program (2018-2022) was compiled by CWARice on the basis of identified priorities and neediness of rice sector in CWA region. Accordingly, targeted research studies conducted on the mission of sustaining rice production in Central and West Asia. After several years of studying, researching and collecting laboratory data and field operations, an important step has now been taken towards increasing rice yield and quality in Central and West Asia with the implementation of the latest project entitled "Studying genetic diversity in Central and Western Asian rice cultivars through microsatellite markers". The results of this study, published in the journal of Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-020-00927-2) indicated genetic diversity in rice varieties. The studied genotypes of Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan clustered in 5 different groups. The highest genetic distance was between Iran and Uzbekistan and the least distance was between Iran and Afghanistan. SSR markers in this study showed a high level of polymorphism in rice germplasm.

Based on the results of the principal coordinate analysis, 3 distinct groups were observed. The first group consisted mostly of the cultivars from Turkey. Only one genotype from Iraq was clustered in this group. In the second group, all the genotypes from Iran and Afghanistan were grouped together. The other cultivars from Uzbekistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan were clustered in the third group.

In fact, achieving the first released valuable information on rice varieties of CWA region is a turning point to increase rice yield and sustainability in the Central and West Asian region.