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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Joint Research Unit 1095 Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of Cereals

Nadège Baillot

2019 May - Distribution of the individual mass of bread wheat grain: analysis of the variability of the mass as a function of position within the ear

As the increase in cultivated areas can only be limited, increasing yield is the main way to meet the growing demand for wheat production. Part of this increase may come from the selection of more efficient varieties. They will have to be able to maintain a high level of performance in more unfavourable conditions related to global change. Thousand grain weight is one of the main yield components. It is estimated at the plot scale and represents the average value of a large number of grains. However, there is a large variability in the individual mass of the grains according to their position within the ear. Observing only average values could hide a source of genetic variability that would allow breeding for wheat varieties better adapted to the new climatic constraints imposed by global change. The objective of this work is therefore to identify the ecophysiological determinism of the variability of the individual grain mass as a function of their position within the ear.

This study is based on two experiments: the first, conducted in the field at two levels of nitrogen fertilization in 2014, allowed to characterize the mass distribution, to define a methodology for studying this distribution, and to identify contrasting genotypes in order to give a generic character to the results obtained. Two varieties were chosen to test in the second experimentation under controlled conditions, several hypotheses that could be at the origin of the variability of the final dry mass of the grains.

Results showed a parabolic distribution of final dry mass of the grains along the ear. Moreover, the proximal grains were heavier than the distal grains within a spikelet. The ablation of spikelets did not highlight physical constraints between spikelets that could explain the variability in final dry matter of the grains. The delay in flowering dates and the duration of grain filling did not seem to explain the variability observed. Similarly, no correlation between the size of ovaries at flowering and the final dry mass of the grains was showed. The differences in final dry mass observed along the ear was finally related to differences in grain growth rate.

This work highlighted differences in sink strength within the ear, and enabled to identify parameters that could affect these differences. We hypothesize that the allocation of assimilates between grains is the emerging property of relative sink strength that would express themselves differently between spikelets and between grains of the same spikelet. The next step after this work would therefore be to validate this hypothesis, and to determine all the parameters influencing the final dry mass in order to define, test and validate rules for the allocation of carbon within the grain according to its position in the ear. The underlying objective is to create a mechanistic and dynamic model capable of simulating the impacts of environmental and genetic factors on individual grain dry mass.

Keywords: growth kinetics, position and individual grain weight, Triticum aestivum