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Selection for water-soluble carbohydrate accumulation and investigation of genetic × environment interactions in an elite wheat breeding population

Ovenden, Ben, Milgate, Andrew, Lisle, Chris, Wade, Len J., Rebetzke, Greg J., Holland, James B.
Theoretical and applied genetics 2017 v.130 no.11 pp. 2445-2461
breeding, breeding programs, carbohydrates, drought, drought tolerance, genetic correlation, genotype-environment interaction, germplasm, grain yield, heritability, nitrogen content, tillering, wheat
KEY MESSAGE : Water-soluble carbohydrate accumulation can be selected in wheat breeding programs with consideration of genetic × environmental interactions and relationships with other important characteristics such as relative maturity and nitrogen concentration, although the correlation between WSC traits and grain yield is low and inconsistent. The potential to increase the genetic capacity for water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) accumulation is an opportunity to improve the drought tolerance capability of rainfed wheat varieties, particularly in environments where terminal drought is a significant constraint to wheat production. A population of elite breeding germplasm was characterized to investigate the potential for selection of improved WSC concentration and total amount in water deficit and well-watered environments. Accumulation of WSC involves complex interactions with other traits and the environment. For both WSC concentration (WSCC) and total WSC per area (WSCA), strong genotype × environment interactions were reflected in the clear grouping of experiments into well-watered and water deficit environment clusters. Genetic correlations between experiments were high within clusters. Heritability for WSCC was larger than for WSCA, and significant associations were observed in both well-watered and water deficit experiment clusters between the WSC traits and nitrogen concentration, tillering, grains per m², and grain size. However, correlations between grain yield and WSCC or WSCA were weak and variable, suggesting that selection for these traits is not a better strategy for improving yield under drought than direct selection for yield.