Phenotypic plasticity of yield and phenology in wheat, sunflower and grapevine

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Published in Field Crops Reseach 110(3): 242-250

Phenotypic plasticity of yield and phenology in wheat, sunflower and grapevine

V.O. Sadras, M.P. Reynolds, A.J. de la Vega, P.R. Petrie and R. Robinson

Abstract:  This paper focuses on the interaction between genotype and environment, a critical aspect of plant breeding, from a physiological perspective. We present a theoretical framework largely based on Bradshaw’s principles of phenotypic plasticity (Adv. Gen. 13: 115) updated to account for recent developments in physiology and genetics. Against this framework we discuss associations between plasticity of yield and plasticity of phenological development. Plasticity was quantified using linear models of phenotype vs environment for 169 wheat lines grown in 6 environments in Mexico, 32 sunflower hybrids grown in at least 15 environments in Argentina and 7 grapevine varieties grown in at least 14 environments in Australia.

In wheat, yield ranged from 0.6 to 7.8 t ha−1 and the range of plasticity was 0.74–1.27 for yield and 0.85–1.17 for time to anthesis. The duration of the post-anthesis period as a fraction of the season was the trait with the largest range of plasticity, i.e. 0.47–1.80. High yield plasticity was an undesirable trait as it was associated with low yield in low-yielding environments. Low yield plasticity and high yield in low-yielding environments were associated with three phenological traits: early anthesis, long duration and low plasticity of post-anthesis development.

In sunflower, yield ranged from 0.5 to 4.9 t ha−1 and the range of plasticity was 0.72–1.29 for yield and 0.72–1.22 for time to anthesis. High yield plasticity was a desirable trait as it was primarily associated with high yield in high-yielding environments. High yield plasticity and high yield in high-yielding environments were associated with two phenological traits: late anthesis and high plasticity of time to anthesis.

In grapevine, yield ranged from 1.2 to 18.7 t ha−1 and the range of plasticity was 0.79–1.29 for yield, 0.86–1.30 for time of budburst, 0.84–1.18 for flowering, and 0.78–1.16 for veraison. High plasticity of yield was a desirable trait as it was primarily associated with high yield in high-yielding environments. High yield plasticity was associated with two phenological traits: plasticity of budburst and plasticity of anthesis.

We report for the first time positive associations between plasticities of yield and phenology in crop species. It is concluded that in addition to phenology per se (i.e. mean time to a phenostage), plasticity of phenological development merits consideration as a distinct trait influencing crop adaptation and yield.

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