Positive and Potential Negative Effects of Heat-Tolerance Genes in Cowpea
- A. M. Ismail and
- A. E. Hall
Hot weather can cause reductions in crop yield. Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] is sensitive to high night temperature during reproductive development, but genotypes with heat tolerance have been developed. Positive and potential negative effects of the heattolerance genes were evaluated in contrasting field environments. Six pairs of cowpea lines with differences in heat tolerance during reproductive development but similar genetic backgrounds were grown in eight field environments with average night temperatures ranging from cool (17°C) to very hot (28°C). Heat-susceptible genotypes exhibited a 12% decrease in first-flush grain yield per degree centigrade increase in average night temperature above 20°C because of decreases in pod set and harvest index. Heat-tolerance genes progressively enhanced first-flush grain yields by increasing pod set on main-stem nodes and enhancing the overall partitioning of carbohydrates into grain with increases in average night temperature above 20°C. Heat-tolerance genes (or closely linked genes) also had a progressive dwarfing effect, mainly resulting from shorter main-stem internodes and involving reduced shoot biomass production, with increases in average night temperature above 15°C. Heat-tolerance genes slightly enhanced the extent of premature plant senescence occurring just after the first flush of pods was produced. Second-flush grain yields were positively correlated with the percentage of plants that survived after producing the first flush of pods. The value of the heat-tolerance genes is discussed with respect to their positive effects on reproductive development and solutions to potential negative effects due to dwarfing are considered.
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