Journal Article

Decorrelating source and sink determinism of nitrogen remobilization during grain filling in wheat

Pierre Bancal

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 8, pages 1315-1324
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp077
Decorrelating source and sink determinism of nitrogen remobilization during grain filling in wheat

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  • Ecology and Conservation
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Background and Aims

Nitrogen (N) remobilization is the major source of N for grain filling in wheat, the other being N uptake after anthesis (Nup); however, variations in remobilization efficiency are not fully understood. It is hard to tell whether the source or the sink effects predominate, because N in the culm at anthesis (Nant) correlates strongly with both N remobilization (Nrem) and grain number (Gn), respectively the main source and the main sink.

Methods

A pot experiment was thus designed to assess the relative contributions of the source and sink to Nrem regulation. Using two cultivars of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum, ‘Apache’ and ‘Autan’), three pre-anthesis and two post-anthesis N fertilization levels were applied in order to vary the N sources, while ear trimming at anthesis reduced sink size.

Key Results

Unlike results observed at a scale of m2, the equation binding Nant to Nrem exhibited a negative intercept, challenging the concept of nitrogen remobilization efficiency. Before ear trimming, Gn fitted well to Nant, with a slope dependent on genotype. To obtain a sink variable that was less correlated with Nant, the difference δGn was calculated between actual grain number and that which could be predicted from culm N before trimming. A multiple regression then predicted Nrem (r2 = 0·95) from Nant, Nup and δGn, with fitting unbiased by fertilization treatment, trimming or genotype.

Conclusions

In untrimmed culms, δGn had a negligible effect, so that Nrem could be fitted to Nant and Nup only: grain N filling appeared to be determined by sources only (Nant and Nup), not by sink, and the reduction of Nrem by Nup was quantified. In these ‘normal’ cases, the regulation of Nrem should thus be located within the N sources themselves. In contrast, ear-trimming needs to be considered with caution as it introduced a sink limitation on Nrem; moreover one with an important genotype effect.

Keywords: Triticum aestivum; winter wheat; source/sink; grain filling; nitrogen uptake; grain number; nitrogen harvest index; nitrogen remobilization efficiency; genotype × environment

Journal Article.  7230 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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