Traits and selection strategies to improve root systems and water uptake in water-limited wheat crops.
ABSTRACT Wheat yields globally will depend increasingly on good management to conserve rainfall and new varieties that use water efficiently for grain production. Here we propose an approach for developing new varieties to make better use of deep stored water. We focus on water-limited wheat production in the summer-dominant rainfall regions of India and Australia, but the approach is generally applicable to other environments and root-based constraints. Use of stored deep water is valuable because it is more predictable than variable in-season rainfall and can be measured prior to sowing. Further, this moisture is converted into grain with twice the efficiently of in-season rainfall since it is taken up later in crop growth during the grain-filling period when the roots reach deeper layers. We propose that wheat varieties with a deeper root system, a redistribution of branch root density from the surface to depth, and with greater radial hydraulic conductivity at depth would have higher yields in rainfed systems where crops rely on deep water for grain fill. Developing selection systems for mature root system traits is challenging as there are limited high-throughput phenotyping methods for roots in the field, and there is a risk that traits selected in the lab on young plants will not translate into mature root system traits in the field. We give an example of a breeding programme that combines laboratory and field phenotyping with proof of concept evaluation of the trait at the beginning of the selection programme. This would greatly enhance confidence in a high-throughput laboratory or field screen, and avoid investment in screens without yield value. This approach requires careful selection of field sites and years that allow expression of deep roots and increased yield. It also requires careful selection and crossing of germplasm to allow comparison of root expression among genotypes that are similar for other traits, especially flowering time and disease and toxicity resistances. Such a programme with field and laboratory evaluation at the outset will speed up delivery of varieties with improved root systems for higher yield.
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ABSTRACT: Producing more food per unit of water has never been as important as it is at present, and the demand for water by economic sectors other than agriculture will necessarily put a great deal of pressure on a dwindling resource, leading to a call for increases in the productivity of water in agriculture. This topic has been given high priority in the research agenda for the last 30 years, but with the exception of a few specific cases, such as water-use-efficient wheat in Australia, breeding crops for water-use efficiency has yet to be accomplished. Here, we review the efforts to harness transpiration efficiency (TE); that is, the genetic component of water-use efficiency. As TE is difficult to measure, especially in the field, evaluations of TE have relied mostly on surrogate traits, although this has most likely resulted in over-dependence on the surrogates. A new lysimetric method for assessing TE gravimetrically throughout the entire cropping cycle has revealed high genetic variation in different cereals and legumes. Across species, water regimes, and a wide range of genotypes, this method has clearly established an absence of relationships between TE and total water use, which dismisses previous claims that high TE may lead to a lower production potential. More excitingly, a tight link has been found between these large differences in TE in several crops and attributes of plants that make them restrict water losses under high vapour-pressure deficits. This trait provides new insight into the genetics of TE, especially from the perspective of plant hydraulics, probably with close involvement of aquaporins, and opens new possibilities for achieving genetic gains via breeding focused on this trait. Last but not least, small amounts of water used in specific periods of the crop cycle, such as during grain filling, may be critical. We assessed the efficiency of water use at these critical stages.Journal of Experimental Botany 03/2014; · 5.79 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Background Aluminium (Al) toxicity and drought stress are two major constraints for crop production in the world, particularly in the tropics. The variation in rainfall distribution and longer dry spells in much of the tropics during the main growing period of crops are becoming increasingly important yield-limiting factors with the global climate change. As a result, crop genotypes that are tolerant of both drought and Al toxicity need to be developed. Scope The present review mainly focuses on the interaction of Al and drought on root development, crop growth and yield on acid soils. It summarizes evidence from our own studies and other published/related work, and provides novel insights into the breeding for the adaptation to these combined abiotic stresses. The primary symptom of Al phytotoxicity is the inhibition of root growth. The impeded root system will restrict the roots for exploring the acid subsoil to absorb water and nutrients which is particularly important under condition of low soil moisture in the surface soil under drought. Whereas drought primarily affects shoot growth, effects of phytotoxic Al on shoot growth are mostly secondary effects that are induced by Al affecting root growth and function, while under drought stress root growth may even be promoted. Much progress has recently been made in the understanding of the physiology and molecular biology of the interaction between Al toxicity and drought stress in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in hydroponics and in an Al-toxic soil. Conclusions Crops growing on acid soils yield less than their potential because of the poorly developed root system that limits nutrient and water uptake. Breeding for drought resistance must be combined with Al resistance, to assure that drought resistance is expressed adequately in crops grown on soils with acid Al-toxic subsoils.Plant and Soil 11/2013; · 3.24 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Sustainable intensification is seen as the main route for meeting the world's increasing demands for food and fibre. As demands mount for greater efficiency in the use of resources to achieve this goal, so the focus on roots and rootstocks and their role in acquiring water and nutrients, and overcoming pests and pathogens, is increasing. The purpose of this review is to explore some of the ways in which understanding root systems and their interactions with soils could contribute to the development of more sustainable systems of intensive production. Physical interactions with soil particles limit root growth if soils are dense, but root-soil contact is essential for optimal growth and uptake of water and nutrients. X-ray microtomography demonstrated that maize roots elongated more rapidly with increasing root-soil contact, as long as mechanical impedance was not limiting root elongation, while lupin was less sensitive to changes in root-soil contact. In addition to selecting for root architecture and rhizosphere properties, the growth of many plants in cultivated systems is profoundly affected by selection of an appropriate rootstock. Several mechanisms for scion control by rootstocks have been suggested, but the causal signals are still uncertain and may differ between crop species. Linkage map locations for quantitative trait loci for disease resistance and other traits of interest in rootstock breeding are becoming available. Designing root systems and rootstocks for specific environments is becoming a feasible target.Journal of Experimental Botany 02/2013; · 5.79 Impact Factor
Anton Paul Wasson