Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a staple food for more than half of the world's population. To meet the ever-increasing demand for food, because of population growth and improved living standards, world rice production needs to double by 20301. The development of new elite rice varieties with high yield and superior quality is challenging for traditional breeding approaches, and new strategies need to be developed. Here, we report the successful development of new elite varieties by pyramiding major genes that significantly contribute to grain quality and yield from three parents over five years. The new varieties exhibit higher yield potential and better grain quality than their parental varieties and the China's leading super-hybrid rice, Liang-you-pai-jiu (LYP9 or Pei-ai 64S/93-11). Our results demonstrate that rational design is a powerful strategy for meeting the challenges of future crop breeding, particularly in pyramiding multiple complex traits.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 91535205, 91435105 and 31521064), the National Key Basic Research Program (grant no. 2013CBA014) and the ‘Strategic Priority Research Program’ of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. XDA08000000).

Author information

Author notes

    • Dali Zeng
    •  & Zhixi Tian

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology, China National Rice Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou 310006, China

    • Dali Zeng
    • , Yuchun Rao
    • , Guojun Dong
    • , Yaolong Yang
    • , Lichao Huang
    • , Yujia Leng
    • , Jie Xu
    • , Chuan Sun
    • , Guangheng Zhang
    • , Jiang Hu
    • , Li Zhu
    • , Zhenyu Gao
    • , Xingming Hu
    • , Longbiao Guo
    •  & Qian Qian
  2. State Key Laboratory of Plant Cell and Chromosome Engineering, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

    • Zhixi Tian
  3. Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Shenzhen 518120, China

    • Guosheng Xiong
    •  & Qian Qian
  4. State Key Laboratory of Plant Genomics and National Centre for Plant Gene Research, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

    • Yonghong Wang
    •  & Jiayang Li


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Q.Q., J.L. and Y.W. designed the project; D.Z. and Y.R. performed the experiments in this study; D.Z., G.D., Y.Y., L.H. and Y.L. performed the molecular assistant selection; D.Z., C.S. and G.Z. contributed to measuring the grain ECQ; J.X., J.H., L.Z. and Z.G. evaluated the taste and palatability of the cooked rice; Z.T. and G.X. were responsible for the development of the gene markers; Z.T., L.G. and X.H. performed the statistical analysis; and D.Z., Z.T., Q.Q. and J.L. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jiayang Li or Qian Qian.

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