DROUGHT STRESS: Soil water availability alters the inter- and intra-cultivar competition of Three Spring wheat cultivars bred in different eras
Song, L., Zhang, D-W, Li, F-M, Fan, X-W, Ma, Q. and Turner, N.C. (2010) DROUGHT STRESS: Soil water availability alters the inter- and intra-cultivar competition of Three Spring wheat cultivars bred in different eras. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science, 196 (5). pp. 323-335.
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Competition for water generates a classic aspect of the tragedy of the commons, the ‘race for fish’, where crops must allocate more resource to acquisition of the limiting resource than is optimal for crop yield allocation. A pot experiment using a simple additive (target–neighbour) design was conducted to examine the above-ground and below-ground growth of three spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars when grown alone and in mixtures at three levels of water availability. The effects of competition and water availability were compared by observing patterns of growth, biomass allocation and below-ground outcomes. Competitive interactions were investigated among cultivars ‘HST’, ‘GY602’ and ‘LC8275’, target plant of each cultivar grown without neighbouring plants are referred to herein as control plant and one target plant of each cultivar sown surrounded either by same or another cultivar as intra- or inter-cultivar competition. Competitive ability was assessed as the response ratio (lnRR) between the target plant surrounded by six other plants and the target plant in isolation. Our results showed that the cultivar ‘HST’, released over a century ago, produced a higher biomass and grain yield than the more recently released cultivars ‘LC8275’ and ‘GY602’ when grown as isolated plants with sufficient water supply. However, competition for resources from neighbours led to target plant biomass and grain yield being significantly reduced relative to controls in all three cultivars, particularly in ‘HST’. When subjected to intra-cultivar competition, the two recently released cultivars ‘LC8275’ and ‘GY602’ had higher grain yields and water use efficiency for grain than ‘HST’ in all three water regimes. The landrace ‘HST’ had better and significantly linear relationships between biomass and biomass allocation, root length and specific root length, whereas the recent and modern cultivars had much more water-related species-specific changes in root morphology and allocation patterns. These results suggest that crop traits that influence competitive ability, such as biomass allocation to roots and root plasticity in response to drought have changed in modern wheat cultivars because of breeding and selection.
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