Simulating growth, development, and yield of tillering pearl millet. III. Biomass accumulation and partitioning.
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Pearl millet landraces from Rajasthan, India, yield significantly less than improved cultivars under optimum growing conditions, but not under stressed conditions. To successfully develop a simulation model for pearl millet, capable of capturing such genotype×environment (G×E) interactions for grain yield, we need to understand the causes of the observed yield interaction. The aim of this paper is to quantify the key parameters that determine the accumulation and partitioning of biomass: the light extinction coefficient, radiation use efficiency (RUE), pattern of dry matter allocation to the leaf blades, the determination of grain number, and the rate and duration of dry matter accumulation into individual grains. We used data on improved cultivars and landraces, obtained from both published and unpublished sources collected at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India. Where possible, the effects of cultivar and axis (main shoot vs. tillers) on these parameters were analysed, as previous research suggested that G×E interactions for grain yield are associated with differences in tillering habit. Our results indicated there were no cultivar differences in extinction coefficient, RUE, and biomass partitioning before anthesis, and differences between axes in biomass partitioning were negligible. This indicates there was no basis for cultivar differences in the potential grain yield. Landraces, however, produced consistently less grain yield for a given rate of dry matter accumulation at anthesis than did improved cultivars. This was caused by a combination of low grain number and small grain size. The latter was predominantly due to a lower grain growth rate, as genotypic differences in the duration of grain filling were relatively small. Main shoot and tillers also had a similar duration of grain filling. The low grain yield of the landraces was associated with profuse nodal tillering, supporting the hypothesis that grain yield was below the potential yield that could be supported by assimilate availability. We hypothesise this is a survival strategy, which enhances the prospects to escape the effects of stress around anthesis
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