Awns reduce grain number to increase grain size and harvestable yield in irrigated and rainfed spring wheat uri icon

abstract

  • Genotypic variation in ear morphology is linked to differences in photosynthetic potential to influence grain yield in winter cereals. Awns contribute to photosynthesis, particularly under water-limited conditions when canopy assimilation is restricted. We assessed performance of up to 45 backcross-derived, awned-awnletted NILs representing four diverse genetic backgrounds in 25 irrigated or rainfed, and droughted environments in Australia and Mexico. Mean environment grain yields were wide-ranging (1.38-7.93 t ha(-1)) with vegetative and maturity biomass, plant height, anthesis date, spike number, and harvest index all similar (P > 0.05) for awned and awnletted NILs. Overall, grain yields of awned-awnletted sister-NILs were equivalent, irrespective of yield potential and genetic background. Awnletted wheats produced significantly more grains per unit area (+4%) and per spike (+5%) reflecting more fertile spikelets and grains in tertiary florets. Increases in grain number were compensated for by significant reductions in grain size (-5%) and increased frequency (+0.8%) of small, shrivelled grains ('screenings') to reduce seed-lot quality of awnletted NILs. Post-anthesis canopies of awnletted NILs were marginally warmer over all environments (+0.27 A degrees C) but were not different and were sometimes cooler than awned NILs at cooler air temperatures. Awns develop early and represented up to 40% of total spikelet biomass prior to ear emergence. We hypothesize that the allocation of assimilate to large and rapidly developing awns decreases spikelet number and floret fertility to reduce grain number, particularly in distal florets. Individual grain size is increased to reduce screenings and to increase test weight and milling quality, particularly in droughted environments. Despite the average reduction in grain size, awnless lines could be identified that combined higher grain yield with larger grain size, increased grain protein concentration, and reduced screenings.
  • Genotypic variation in ear morphology is linked to differences in photosynthetic potential to influence grain yield in winter cereals. Awns contribute to photosynthesis, particularly under water-limited conditions when canopy assimilation is restricted. We assessed performance of up to 45 backcross-derived, awned?awnletted NILs representing four diverse genetic backgrounds in 25 irrigated or rainfed, and droughted environments in Australia and Mexico. Mean environment grain yields were wide-ranging (1.38?7.93 t ha?1) with vegetative and maturity biomass, plant height, anthesis date, spike number, and harvest index all similar (P >0.05) for awned and awnletted NILs. Overall, grain yields of awned?awnletted sister-NILs were equivalent, irrespective of yield potential and genetic background. Awnletted wheats produced significantly more grains per unit area (+4%) and per spike (+5%) reflecting more fertile spikelets and grains in tertiary florets. Increases in grain number were compensated for by significant reductions in grain size (?5%) and increased frequency (+0.8%) of small, shrivelled grains (?screenings?) to reduce seed-lot quality of awnletted NILs. Post-anthesis canopies of awnletted NILs were marginally warmer over all environments (+0.27 °C) but were not different and were sometimes cooler than awned NILs at cooler air temperatures. Awns develop early and represented up to 40% of total spikelet biomass prior to ear emergence. We hypothesize that the allocation of assimilate to large and rapidly developing awns decreases spikelet number and floret fertility to reduce grain number, particularly in distal florets. Individual grain size is increased to reduce screenings and to increase test weight and milling quality, particularly in droughted environments. Despite the average reduction in grain size, awnless lines could be identified that combined higher grain yield with larger grain size, increased grain protein concentration, and reduced screenings

publication date

  • 2016
  • 2016
  • 2016