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Sorghum genotypes differ in high temperature responses for seed set

Singh, Vijaya, Nguyen, Chuc T., van Oosterom, Erik J., Chapman, Scott C., Jordan, David R., Hammer, Graeme L.
Field crops research 2015 v.171 pp. 32-40
Sorghum (Poaceae), climate, field experimentation, flowering, genotype, grain yield, heat stress, heat tolerance, night temperature, pollen germination, screening, seed germination, seed set
Significant genotypic differences in tolerance of pollen germination and seed set to high temperatures have been shown in sorghum. However, it is unclear whether differences were associated with variation in either the threshold temperature above which reproductive processes are affected, or in the tolerance to increased temperature above that threshold. The objectives of this study were to (a) dissect known differences in heat tolerance for a range of sorghum genotypes into differences in the threshold temperature and tolerance to increased temperatures, (b) determine whether poor seed set under high temperatures can be compensated by increased seed mass, and (c) identify whether genotypic differences in heat tolerance in a controlled environment facility (CEF) can be reproduced in field conditions. Twenty genotypes were grown in a CEF under four day/night temperatures (31.9/21.0°C, 32.8/21.0°C, 36.1/21.0°C, and 38.0/21.0°C), and a subset of six genotypes was grown in the field under four different temperature regimes around anthesis. The novelty of the findings in this study related to differences in responsiveness to high temperature—genotypic differences in seed set percentage were found for both the threshold temperature and the tolerance to increased maximum temperature above that threshold. Further, the response of seed set to high temperature in the field study was well correlated to that in the CEF (R2=0.69), although the slope was significantly less than unity, indicating that heat stress effects may have been diluted under the variable field conditions. Poor seed set was not compensated by increased seed mass in either CEF or field environments. Grain yield was thus closely related to seed set percentage. This result demonstrates the potential for development of a low-cost field screening method to identify high-temperature tolerant varieties that could deliver sustainable yields under future warmer climates.