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Natural variation in photosynthetic capacity, growth, and yield in 64 field-grown wheat genotypes

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • S. M. Driever
  • T. Lawson
  • P. J. Andralojc
  • C. A. Raines
  • M. A J Parry
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Botany
Issue number17
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)4959-4973
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Increasing photosynthesis in wheat has been identified as an approach to enhance crop yield, with manipulation of key genes involved in electron transport and the Calvin cycle as one avenue currently being explored. However, natural variation in photosynthetic capacity is a currently unexploited genetic resource for potential crop improvement. Using gas-exchange analysis and protein analysis, the existing natural variation in photosynthetic capacity in a diverse panel of 64 elite wheat cultivars grown in the field was examined relative to growth traits, including biomass and harvest index. Significant variations in photosynthetic capacity, biomass, and yield were observed, although no consistent correlation was found between photosynthetic capacity of the flag leaf and grain yield when all cultivars were compared. The majority of the variation in photosynthesis could be explained by components related to maximum capacity and operational rates of CO2 assimilation, and to CO2 diffusion. Cluster analysis revealed that cultivars may have been bred unintentionally for desirable traits at the expense of photosynthetic capacity. These findings suggest that there is significant underutilized photosynthetic capacity among existing wheat varieties. Our observations are discussed in the context of exploiting existing natural variation in physiological processes for the improvement of photosynthesis in wheat.