How yield relates to ash content, Δ13C and Δ18O in maize grown under different water regimes uri icon


  • Background and Aims Stable isotopes have proved a valuable phenotyping tool when breeding for yield potential and drought adaptation; however, the cost and technical skills involved in isotope analysis limit its large-scale application in breeding programmes. This is particularly so for Delta O-18 despite the potential relevance of this trait in C-4 crops. The accumulation of minerals (measured as ash content) has been proposed as an inexpensive way to evaluate drought adaptation and yield in C-3 cereals, but little is known of the usefulness of this measure in C-4 cereals such as maize (Zea mays). The present study investigates how yield relates to ash content, Delta C-13 and Delta O-18, and evaluates the use of ash content as an alternative or complementary criterion to stable isotopes in assessing yield potential and drought resistance in maize.
  • Conclusions Ash content in leaves and kernels proved a useful alternative or complementary criterion to Delta O-18 in kernels for assessing yield performance in maize grown under drought conditions.
  • Key Results Water regime significantly affected yield, ash content and stable isotopes. The results revealed a close relationship between ash content in leaves and the traits informing about plant water status. Ash content in kernels appeared to reflect differences in sink-source balance. Genotypic variation in grain yield was mainly explained by the combination of ash content and Delta O-18, whilst Delta C-13 did not explain a significant percentage of such variation.
  • Methods A set of tropical maize hybrids developed by CIMMYT were subjected to different water availabilities, in order to induce water stress during the reproductive stages under field conditions. Ash content and Delta C-13 were determined in leaves and kernels. In addition, Delta O-18 was measured in kernels.

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009