J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2014, Vol. 56 ›› Issue (5): 444-454.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.12106

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Contribution of the ear and the flag leaf to grain filling in durum wheat inferred from the carbon isotope signature: Genotypic and growing conditions effects

Rut Sanchez-Bragado1, Abdelhalim Elazab1, Bangwei Zhou1, Maria Dolors Serret1, Jordi Bort1, Maria Teresa Nieto-Taladriz2 and José Luis Araus1*   

  1. 1Unitat de Fisiología Vegetal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    2Instituto Nacional de Investigacióny Tecnología Agrariay Alimentaria (INIA), Madrid, Spain
  • Received:2013-06-12 Accepted:2013-09-05 Published:2014-05-01
  • About author:*Corresponding author: Tel: +34 93 402 1469; Fax: +34 93 411 2842; E-mail: jaraus@ub.edu


The ear, together with the flag leaf, is believed to play a major role as a source of assimilates during grain filling in C3 cereals. However, the intrusive nature of most of the available methodologies prevents reaching conclusive results in this regard. This study compares the carbon isotope composition (δ13C) in its natural abundance in the water-soluble fractions of the flag leaf blade and the ear with the δ13C of mature kernels to assess the relative contribution of both organs to grain filling in durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var. durum). The relative contribution of the ear was higher in landraces compared to modern cultivars, as well as in response to nitrogen fertilization and water stress. Such genotypic and environmentally driven differences were associated with changes in harvest index (HI), with the relative contribution of the ear being negatively associated with HI. In the case of the genotypic differences, the lower relative contribution of the ear in modern cultivars compared with landraces is probably associated with the appearance in the former of a certain amount of source limitation driven by a higher HI. In fact, the relative contribution of the ear was far more responsive to changes in HI in modern cultivars compared with landraces.

Key words: Carbon isotope discrimination, ear, flag leaf, grain filling, harvest index, photosynthesis

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