A tillering inhibition gene influences root-shoot carbon partitioning and pattern of water use to improve wheat productivity in rainfed environments

P. W. Hendriks, J. A. Kirkegaard, J. M Lilley, P.J Gregory, G. J. Rebetzke

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35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Genetic modification of shoot and root morphology has potential to improve water and nutrient uptake of wheat crops in rainfed environments. Near-isogenic lines (NILs) varying for a tillering inhibition (tin) gene and representing multiple
genetic backgrounds were phenotyped in contrasting, controlled environments for shoot and root growth. Leaf area, shoot and root biomass were similar until tillering, whereupon reduced tillering in tin-containing NILs produced reductions of up to 60% in total leaf area and biomass, and increases in total root length of up to 120% and root biomass to 145%. Together, the root-to-shoot ratio increased two-fold with the tin gene. The influence of tin on shoot and root
growth was greatest in the cv. Banks genetic background, particularly in the biculm-selected NIL, and was typically strongest in cooler environments. A separate de-tillering study confirmed greater root-to-shoot ratios with regular
tiller removal in non-tin-containing genotypes. In validating these observations in a rainfed field study, the tin allele had a negligible effect on seedling growth but was associated with significantly (P<0.05) reduced tiller number (–37%),
leaf area index (–26%), and spike number (–35%) to reduce plant biomass (–19%) at anthesis. Root biomass, root-toshoot ratio at early stem elongation, and root depth at maturity were all increased in tin-containing NILs. Soil water
use was slowed in tin-containing NILs, resulting in greater water availability, greater stomatal conductance, cooler canopy temperatures, and maintenance of green leaf area during grain-filling. Together these effects contributed to
increases in harvest index and grain yield. In both the controlled and field environments, the tin gene was commonly associated with increased root length and biomass, but the significant influence of genetic background and environment suggests careful assessment of tin-containing progeny in selection for genotypic increases in root growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-340
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Volume67
Issue number1
Early online date22 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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