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Identification of traits associated with barley yield performance using contrasting nitrogen fertilizations and genotypes

Vicente, Rubén, Vergara-Díaz, Omar, Kerfal, Samir, López, Antonio, Melichar, James, Bort, Jordi, Serret, María Dolores, Araus, José Luis, Kefauver, Shawn C.
Plant science 2019 v.282 pp. 83-94
aquaporins, autogamy, barley, biomass production, canopy, fertilizer application, gene expression regulation, genes, genotype, grain yield, hybrids, leaf area, leaves, messenger RNA, nitrogen, nitrogen compounds, nitrogen content, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrogen metabolism, phenotype, photosynthesis, remote sensing
Much attention has been paid to understanding the traits associated with crop performance and the associated underlying physiological mechanisms, with less effort done towards combining different plant scales, levels of observation, or including hybrids of autogamous species. We aim to identify mechanisms at canopy, leaf and transcript levels contributing to crop performance under contrasting nitrogen supplies in three barley genotypes, two hybrids and one commercial line. High nitrogen fertilization did not affect photosynthetic capacity on a leaf area basis and lowered nitrogen partial factor productivity past a certain point, but increased leaf area and biomass accumulation, parameters that were closely tracked using various different high throughput remote sensing based phenotyping techniques. These aspects, together with a larger catabolism of leaf nitrogen compounds amenable to sink translocation, contributed to higher crop production. Better crop yield and growth in hybrids compared to the line was linked to a nitrogen-saving strategy in source leaves to the detriment of larger sink size, as indicated by the lower leaf nitrogen content and downregulation of nitrogen metabolism and aquaporin genes. While these changes did not reduce photosynthesis capacity on an area basis, they were related with better nitrogen use in the hybrids compared with the line.