While the yield potential of rice has increased but little is known about the impact of breeding on grain quality, especially under different levels of N availability. In order to investigate the integrated effects of breeding and N levels on rice quality 12 japonica rice cultivars bred in the past 60 years in the Yangtze River Basin were used with three levels of N: 0 kg N ha− 1, 240 kg N ha− 1, and 360 kg N ha− 1. During the period, milling quality (brown rice percentage, milled rice percentage, and head rice percentage), appearance quality (chalky kernels percentage, chalky size, and chalkiness), and eating and cooking quality (amylose content, gel consistency, peak viscosity, breakdown, and setback) were significantly improved, but the nutritive value of the grain has declined due to a reduction in protein content. Micronutrients, such as Cu, Mg, and S contents, were decreased, and Fe, Mn, Zn, Na, Ca, K, P, B contents were increased. These changes in grain quality imply that simultaneous improvements in grain yield and grain quality are possible through selection. Overall, application of N fertilizer decreased grain quality, especially in terms of eating and cooking quality. Under higher N levels, higher protein content was the main reason for deterioration of grain quality, although lower amylose content might contribute to improving starch pasting properties. These results suggest that further improvement in grain quality will depend on both breeding and cultivation practices, especially in regard to nitrogen and water management.
Gu, J., Chen, J., Chen, L., Wang, Z., Zhang, H., & Yang, J. (2015). Grain quality changes and responses to nitrogen fertilizer of japonica rice cultivars released in the Yangtze River Basin from the 1950s to 2000s. Crop Journal, 3(4), 285–297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cj.2015.03.007