Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Modelling the effect of plant water use traits on yield and stay-green expression in sorghum

Jana Kholová A D , Tharanya Murugesan A , Sivasakthi Kaliamoorthy A , Srikanth Malayee A , Rekha Baddam A , Graeme L. Hammer B , Greg McLean C , Santosh Deshpande A , C. Thomas Hash A , Peter Q. Craufurd A and Vincent Vadez A

A International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh 502 324, India.

B The University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

C Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: j.kholova@cgiar.org

This paper originates from a presentation at the Interdrought IV Conference, Perth, Australia, 26 September 2013.

Functional Plant Biology 41(11) 1019-1034 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP13355
Submitted: 13 December 2013  Accepted: 23 May 2014   Published: 25 July 2014

Abstract

Post-rainy sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) production underpins the livelihood of millions in the semiarid tropics, where the crop is affected by drought. Drought scenarios have been classified and quantified using crop simulation. In this report, variation in traits that hypothetically contribute to drought adaptation (plant growth dynamics, canopy and root water conducting capacity, drought stress responses) were virtually introgressed into the most common post-rainy sorghum genotype, and the influence of these traits on plant growth, development, and grain and stover yield were simulated across different scenarios. Limited transpiration rates under high vapour pressure deficit had the highest positive effect on production, especially combined with enhanced water extraction capacity at the root level. Variability in leaf development (smaller canopy size, later plant vigour or increased leaf appearance rate) also increased grain yield under severe drought, although it caused a stover yield trade-off under milder stress. Although the leaf development response to soil drying varied, this trait had only a modest benefit on crop production across all stress scenarios. Closer dissection of the model outputs showed that under water limitation, grain yield was largely determined by the amount of water availability after anthesis, and this relationship became closer with stress severity. All traits investigated increased water availability after anthesis and caused a delay in leaf senescence and led to a ‘stay-green’ phenotype. In conclusion, we showed that breeding success remained highly probabilistic; maximum resilience and economic benefits depended on drought frequency. Maximum potential could be explored by specific combinations of traits.

Additional keywords: APSIM, drought stress, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, trait modelling.


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