Owing to its origin in tropical and subtropical areas, rice is susceptible to cold stress. Low temperatures at the germination and seedling stages can result in seed loss, a delayed transplanting period, and lower final yield. In this study, 181 rice varieties from around the world were investigated for cold tolerance at the germination and seedling stages. At the germination stage, the responses of different rice varieties were examined based on the germination index, coleoptile length, and radicle length at low (13 °C) and control temperatures (25 °C). Significant variations in the germination index, coleoptile length, and radicle length were observed among varieties. Low temperature significantly decreased germination ability, and coleoptile and radicle growth in the studied varieties. At the seedling stage, cold tolerance of the rice varieties was evaluated based on the leaf color score under natural low temperature. Similar to the germination stage, at the seedling stage, significant variation in root and shoot growth was observed in the response of rice varieties to low temperature conditions. Based on the results from both the germination and seedling stages, two varieties (Hei-Chiao-Chui-Li-Hsiang and Ta-Mao-Tao) were selected as the best cold-tolerant varieties. Our results also indicate the benefits of warming treatments to protect rice seedlings from low temperature conditions.
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