Journal Article

Recurrent selection for wider seedling leaves increases early biomass and leaf area in wheat (<i>Triticum aestivum</i> L.)

L. Zhang, R. A. Richards, A. G. Condon, D. C. Liu and G. J. Rebetzke

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Volume 66, issue 5, pages 1215-1226
Published in print March 2015 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online December 2014 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:

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The breeding of wheat with greater early vigour has potential to increase water- and nutrient-use efficiency, as well as to improve weed competitiveness to raise crop yields profitably. Given that wheat is inherently conservative in its early growth, a sustained breeding effort was initiated to increase genetically seedling leaf area in developing novel high vigour germplasm. A recurrent selection programme was initiated by intercrossing a genetically diverse set of 28 vigorous wheat lines identified globally. These were intercrossed at random and S1:2 progeny with the largest leaf 1 and 2 widths were intermated to develop new populations for assessment of early growth. This procedure was repeated for up to 60 segregating families per cycle across six cycles over 15 years. Thirty random S1:2 progeny were retained from each cycle and seed-increased together to produce seed for early vigour assessment in multiple sowings. The most vigorous wheat seedlings were identified in later cycles, with some lines producing more than double the leaf area and biomass of elite commercial wheat varieties. Phenotypic selection for greater leaf width was associated with a realized significant (P<0.01) linear increase per seedling of 0.41mm per cycle (+7.1%) for mean leaf width, and correlated linear increases in total leaf area and biomass of 4.48cm2 per cycle (+10.3%) and 10.8mg per cycle (+5.3%), respectively. Genetic gains in widths of leaves 2 (+8.4%) and 3 (+11.5%) were significantly (P<0.01) greater than for leaf 1 (+5.3%). Selection for greater leaf width was associated with linear increases in coleoptile tiller leaf area, small curvilinear increases in leaf 1 length, and reductions in numbers of leaves and mainstem tillers. Genetic variances were large and heritabilities high for leaf width and total leaf area in each cycle, but reduced linearly in size with selection across cycles. Coupling diverse germplasm with a simple, inexpensive, and repeatable selection process has confirmed the value of recurrent selection in developing uniquely vigorous wheat germplasm for use as parents in commercial breeding.

Keywords: Breeding; early vigour; gene action; heritability.

Journal Article.  8896 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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