Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
REVIEW

Crop yield components – photoassimilate supply- or utilisation limited-organ development?

John W. Patrick A C and Kim Colyvas B

A School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

B School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: john.patrick@newcastle.edu.au

Functional Plant Biology 41(9) 893-913 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP14048
Submitted: 14 February 2014  Accepted: 18 April 2014   Published: 10 June 2014

Abstract

Yield potential is the genome-encoded capacity of a crop species to generate yield in an optimal growth environment. Ninety per cent of plant biomass is derived from the photosynthetic reduction of carbon dioxide to organic carbon (photoassimilates – primarily sucrose). Thus, development of yield components (organ numbers and individual organ masses) can be limited by photoassimilate supply (photosynthesis arranged in series with phloem transport) or by their inherent capacity to utilise imported photoassimilates for growth or storage. To this end, photoassimilate supply/utilisation of crop yield has been quantitatively re-evaluated using published responses of yield components to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations across a selection of key crop species including cereal and pulse grains, fleshy fruits, tubers and sugar storing stems and tap roots. The analysis demonstrates that development of harvested organ numbers is strongly limited by photoassimilate supply. Vegetative branching and, to a lesser extent, flower/pod/fleshy fruit abortion, are the major yield components contributing to sensitivity of organ numbers to photoassimilate supply. In contrast, harvested organ size is partially dependent (eudicots), or completely independent (cereals), of photoassimilate supply. Processes limiting photoassimilate utilisation by harvested organs include membrane transport of soluble sugars and their allocation into polymeric storage products.

Additional keywords: elevated carbon dioxide, phloem transport, photosynthesis, sink, source, sucrose.


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