Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Root and shoot growth, and water and light use efficiency of barley and wheat crops grown on a shallow duplex soil in a mediterranean-type environment

PJ Gregory, D Tennant and RK Belford

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 43(3) 555 - 573
Published: 1992


Growth, interception of radiation and water use of three genotypes of barley (Beecher, O'Connor and Syrian) and one of wheat (Gutha) were measured on a duplex soil at East Beverley, W.A. All crops received 11 kg P ha-1 with the seed but no nitrogen fertilizer. Growth was initially slow until 69 days after sowing (das) with only small and inconsistent differences between crops. Thereafter, Beecher and O'Connor grew faster than Syrian and Gutha, maintained growth for longer, and at harvest weighed about 7.5 t ha-1 shoot dry matter, while Syrian and Gutha were about 5.0 t ha-1. Total root weight and length of Gutha increased until anthesis but reached their maxima at 83 das in all barley crops. Root weight as a percentage of total plant weight was about 40% during the winter decreasing to about 15% by anthesis. Root distributions of Beecher and O'Connor were similar but different from those of Syrian and Gutha; the former had up to 25% of the total root length at anthesis below 40 cm, but the latter had only about 5%. Dry matter production was linearly related to the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) intercepted, although the relations showed a break at about the time of flag leaf emergence, and efficiencies of conversion of PAR to dry matter were higher prior to this than after. Efficiencies for the barley crops were similar (about 2 g total dry weight MJ-1 before flag leaf emergence) and about 20% greater than for Gutha. Despite the large differences in dry matter production between crops, evapotranspiration (ET) was similar. For Beecher and O'Connor, evaporation E was about 40% of seasonal ET but for Syrian and Gutha it was about 50%. Values of water use efficiency (about 30 kg shoot ha-1 mm-1 for Beecher and OIConnor and 20 kg ha-1 mm-1 for Syrian and Gutha) were similar to other cereal crops and the amount of shoot dry matter per unit of water transpired for barley crops grown in W.A., U.K. and Syria was nearly constant; the value of the 'crop specific constant' was 3.0 Pa.

Keywords: barley; wheat; roots; water use efficiency; radiation use efficiency; duplex soil

© CSIRO 1992

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