Journal Article

Trends in leaf photosynthesis in historical rice varieties developed in the Philippines since 1966

S. Hubbart, S. Peng, P. Horton, Y. Chen and E. H. Murchie

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 58, issue 12, pages 3429-3438
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online September 2007 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:

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Crop improvement in terms of yield is rarely linked to leaf photosynthesis. However, in certain crop plants such as rice, it is predicted that an increase in photosynthetic rate will be required to support future grain yield potential. In order to understand the relationships between yield improvement and leaf photosynthesis, controlled environment conditions were used to grow 10 varieties which were released from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) between 1966 and 1995 and one newly developed line. Two growth light intensities were used: high light (1500 μmol m−2 s−1) and low light (300 μmol m−2 s−1). Gas exchange, leaf protein, chlorophyll, and leaf morphology were measured in the ninth leaf on the main stem. A high level of variation was observed among high light-grown plants for light-saturated photosynthetic rate per unit leaf area (Pmax), stomatal conductance (g), content of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco), and total leaf protein content. Notably, between 1966 and 1980 there was a decline in Pmax, g, leaf protein, chlorophyll, and Rubisco content. Values recovered in those varieties released after 1980. This striking trend coincides with a previous published observation that grain yield in IRRI varieties released prior to 1980 correlated with harvest index whereas that for those released after 1980 correlated with biomass. Pmax showed significant correlations with both g and Rubisco content. Large differences were observed between high light- and low light-grown plants (photoacclimation). The photoacclimation ‘range’ for Pmax correlated with Pmax in high light-grown plants. It is concluded that (i) leaf photosynthesis may be systematically affected by breeding strategy; (ii) Pmax is a useful target for yield improvements where yield is limited by biomass production rather than partitioning; and (iii) the capacity for photoacclimation is related to high Pmax values.

Keywords: Acclimation; biomass; historical; improvement; irradiance; morphology; photosynthesis; rice; Rubisco; variation

Journal Article.  5352 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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