Breeding effects on grain filling, biomass partitioning, and remobilization in mediterranean durum wheat

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This work assesses the changes resulting from durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var. durum) breeding in Italy and Spain during the 20th century on grain filling, biomass production, and allocation at anthesis, and the remobilization of preanthesis photosynthates to the grain of main stems. Field experiments, involving 12 Italian and 12 Spanish cultivars released at different periods, were conducted at two Spanish sites during three growing seasons. Breeding activities did not modify final grain weight (WG), the maximum rate of grain filling (R), nor grain filling duration (D) of central grains of main spikes. Genetic variability existed for WG and R within countries and periods. Cycle length (expressed as days from sowing to anthesis [DSA]) was reduced by 2 and 8 d in Italian and Spanish cultivars, respectively. Crop dry weight (CDW) decreased by 21% (0.51% yr–1) and green area index (GAI) by 28% (–0.33% yr–1) in Spanish cultivars. Green area index at anthesis did not differ between old and modern Italian cultivars, while CDW decreased by 9%. Leaf area index (LAI) remained unchanged in cultivars from both countries, while the spike:stem ratio increased by 8 and 10% in Italian and Spanish cultivars, respectively. Changes over time in DSA were positively associated with changes in CDW and GAI. Dry matter translocation (DMT) efficiency switched from 9% in old cultivars to 20% in modern ones. The contribution of preanthesis assimilates to grain yield (CPA) increased to values of 31 and 27% in Italian and Spanish modern cultivars, respectively. Opportunities for further increases in genetic yield potential in Mediterranean-type environments are discussed.

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