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Ontogenetic analysis of yield components and yield stability of durum wheat in water-limited environments

Summary

One main reason for the slow improvement of durum wheat in water-limited environments is the lack of clear understanding of the interrelationships among yield components and their compensatory changes under low and erratic moisture availability. Five cultivars, varying in many physiological attributes, were tested under different drought-stress conditions in field and greenhouse experiments. The cause-effect relationships of duration of vegetative period, duration of grain-filling period, number of spikes per m2, kernels per spike, kernel weight and grain yield per m2 were assessed. Furthermore, yield stability was evaluated. Yield reduction was largest under mid-season stress (58%), followed by terminal stress (30%) and early stress (22%). Cultivar Po was very sensitive to terminal stress.

Path-coefficient analysis revealed a complex pattern of relationships among the six variables. An increase in vegetative period reduced the grain-filling period under all conditions. It increased number of kernels per spike under non-stress conditions. The direct effect of spikes per m2 on grain yield was significantly positive. However, more spikes per m2 resulted in fewer kernels per spike and a low kernel weight and, as a result, a negative relationship with grain yield under early stress. Grain-filling period had a strong influence on grain yield via kernel weight. Kernels per spike had the largest direct effect on grain yield. However, it was negatively correlated with kernel weight, especially under terminal stress. Grain yield heavily depended on kernels per spike under early stress and grain-filling period and kernels per spike under terminal stress.

Variation in drought susceptibility index among cultivars was significant under early and terminal stress conditions, but not under mid-stress conditions. Yield potential and stability were not correlated for the different drought-stress conditions.

Longer grain-filling period, increased number of kernels per spike and limited spike number per m2 can be used as selection criteria for sustainable yield in water-limited environments.

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Simane, B., Struik, P.C., Nachit, M.M. et al. Ontogenetic analysis of yield components and yield stability of durum wheat in water-limited environments. Euphytica 71, 211–219 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00040410

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Key words

  • drought susceptibility index
  • moisture stress
  • path analysis
  • Triticum turgidum var. durum
  • yield components
  • yield potential