Quantifying effects of simple wheat traits on yield in water-limited environments using a modelling approach

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Semenov, M. A., Martre, P. and Jamieson, P. D. 2009. Quantifying effects of simple wheat traits on yield in water-limited environments using a modelling approach. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 149 (6-7), pp. 1095-1104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2009.01.006

AuthorsSemenov, M. A., Martre, P. and Jamieson, P. D.

Availability of water for plant growth is a key factor determining plant distribution in natural ecosystems and is the most important limiting factor in agricultural systems. The high environmental and economical cost of irrigation, required to maintain grain yields in water scarce environments, gives an incentive for improvements in water use efficiency of the crop. The objective of our study is to quantify the effects of changes in simple component plant traits on wheat yield under limited water supplies using a modelling approach. The Sirius wheat simulation model was used to perform analyses at two contrasting European sites, Rothamsted, UK and Seville, Spain, which represent major wheat growing areas in these countries. Several physiological traits were analysed to explore their effects on yield, including drought avoidance traits such as those controlling wheat development (phyllochron and grain filling duration), canopy expansion (maximum surface area of culm leaves) and water uptake (root vertical expansion rate and efficiency of water extraction) and drought tolerance traits such as responses of biomass accumulation and leaf senescence to water stress. Changes in parameters that control the effect of water stress on leaf senescence and biomass accumulation had the largest impact on grain yield under drought. The modified cultivar produced up to 70% more yield compared with the control for very dry years. Changes in phenology parameters, phyllochron and grain filling duration, did not improve yields at either site, suggesting that these parameters have been already optimised for climates in the UK and Spain through the breeding process. Our analysis illustrates the power of modelling in exploring and understanding complex traits in wheat. This may facilitate genetic research by focusing on experimental studies of component traits with the highest potential to influence crop performance.

KeywordsCrop improvement; Deconvoluting complex traits; G × E interactions; Crop simulation model; Sirius
Year of Publication2009
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Journal citation149 (6-7), pp. 1095-1104
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2009.01.006
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeCentre for Mathematical and Computational Biology (MCB)
Application of non-linear mathematics and stochastic modelling to biological systems
Improving water use efficiency and drought tolerance in UK winter wheats - Joint project with ACS and BAB
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online27 Feb 2009
Publication process dates
Accepted23 Jan 2009
Copyright licensePublisher copyright
PublisherElsevier Science Bv

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