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Variations in yield and gluten proteins in durum wheat varieties under late‐season foliar versus soil application of nitrogen fertilizer in a northern Mediterranean environment

Visioli, Giovanna, Bonas, Urbana, Dal Cortivo, Cristian, Pasini, Gabriella, Marmiroli, Nelson, Mosca, Giuliano, Vamerali, Teofilo
Journal of the science of food and agriculture 2018 v.98 no.6 pp. 2360-2369
Mediterranean climate, canopy, durum wheat, ecosystem services, environmental sustainability, fertilizer application, field experimentation, gliadin, gluten, glutenins, grain yield, high-yielding varieties, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, pasta, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, protein content, protein subunits, semolina, sodium dodecyl sulfate, soil, soil treatment, Italy, Mediterranean region
BACKGROUND: With the increasing demand for high‐quality foodstuffs and concern for environmental sustainability, late‐season nitrogen (N) foliar fertilization of common wheat is now an important and widespread practice. This study investigated the effects of late‐season foliar versus soil N fertilization on yield and protein content of four varieties of durum wheat, Aureo, Ariosto, Biensur and Liberdur, in a three‐year field trial in northern Italy. RESULTS: Variations in low‐molecular‐weight glutenins (LMW‐GS), high‐molecular‐weight glutenins (HMW‐GS) and gliadins were assessed by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS‐PAGE). It was found that N applied to the canopy did not improve protein rate compared with N application to the soil (general mean 138 mg g⁻¹), but moderately increased productivity in the high‐yielding varieties Liberdur and Biensur (three‐year means 7.23 vs 7.13 and 7.53 vs 7.09 t ha⁻¹ respectively). Technological quality was mainly related to variety choice, Aureo and Ariosto having higher protein rates and glutenin/gliadin ratios. Also found was a strong ‘variety × N application method’ interaction in the proportions of protein subunits within each class, particularly LMW‐GS and gliadins. A promising result was the higher N uptake efficiency, although as apparent balance, combined with higher HMW/LMW‐GS ratio in var. Biensur. CONCLUSION: Late‐season foliar N fertilization allows N fertilizer saving, potentially providing environmental benefits in the rainy climate of the northern Mediterranean area, and also leads to variety‐dependent up‐regulation of essential LMW‐GS and gliadins. Variety choice is a key factor in obtaining high technological quality, although it is currently associated with modest grain yield. This study provides evidence of high quality in the specific high‐yielding variety Biensur, suggesting its potential as a mono‐varietal semolina for pasta production. © 2017 Society of Chemical Industry