Contrasting response of biomass and grain yield to severe drought in Cappelle Desprez and Plainsman V wheat cultivars.PeerJ 2016; 4:e1708P
We report a case study of natural variations and correlations of some photosynthetic parameters, green biomass and grain yield in Cappelle Desprez and Plainsman V winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars, which are classified as being drought sensitive and tolerant, respectively. We monitored biomass accumulation from secondary leaves in the vegetative phase and grain yield from flag leaves in the grain filling period. Interestingly, we observed higher biomass production, but lower grain yield stability in the sensitive Cappelle cultivar, as compared to the tolerant Plainsman cv. Higher biomass production in the sensitive variety was correlated with enhanced water-use efficiency. Increased cyclic electron flow around PSI was also observed in the Cappelle cv. under drought stress as shown by light intensity dependence of the ratio of maximal quantum yields of Photosystem I and Photosystem II, as well by the plot of the Photosystem I electron transport rate as a function of Photosystem II electron transport rate. Higher CO2 uptake rate in flag leaves of the drought-stressed Plainsman cv. during grain filling period correlates well with its higher grain yield and prolonged transpiration rate through spikes. The increase in drought factor (DFI) and performance (PI) indices calculated from variable chlorophyll fluorescence parameters of secondary leaves also showed correlation with higher biomass in the Cappelle cultivar during the biomass accumulation period. However, during the grain filling period, DFI and PI parameters of the flag leaves were higher in the tolerant Plainsman V cultivar and showed correlation with grain yield stability. Our results suggest that overall biomass and grain yield may respond differentially to drought stress in different wheat cultivars and therefore phenotyping for green biomass cannot be used as a general approach to predict grain yield. We also conclude that photosynthetic efficiency of flag and secondary leaves is correlated with grain yield and green biomass, respectively. In addition, secondary trait associated mechanisms like delayed senescence and higher water-use efficiency also contribute to biomass stability. Our studies further prove that photosynthetic parameters could be used to characterize environmental stress responses.