The ideotype approach has been used in breeding programs at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and in China to improve rice yield potential. First-generation new plant type (NPT) lines developed from tropical japonica at IRRI did not yield well because of limited biomass production and poor grain filling. Progress has been made in second-generation NPT lines developed by crossing elite indica with improved tropical japonica. Several second-generation NPT lines outyielded the first-generation NPT lines and indica check varieties. China's "super" rice breeding project has developed many F(1) hybrid varieties using a combination of the ideotype approach and intersubspecific heterosis. These hybrid varieties produced grain yield of 12 t ha(-1) in on-farm demonstration fields, 8-15% higher than the hybrid check varieties. The success of China's "super" hybrid rice was partially the result of assembling the good components of IRRI's NPT design in addition to the use of intersubspecific heterosis. For example, both designs focused on large panicle size, reduced tillering capacity, and improved lodging resistance. More importantly, improvement in plant type design was achieved in China's "super" hybrid rice by emphasizing the top three leaves and panicle position within a canopy in order to meet the demand of heavy panicles for a large source supply. The success of "super" hybrid rice breeding in China and progress in NPT breeding at IRRI suggest that the ideotype approach is effective for breaking the yield ceiling of an irrigated rice crop. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.