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Does Maintaining Green Leaf Area in Sorghum Improve Yield under Drought? I. Leaf Growth and Senescence


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 40 No. 4, p. 1026-1037
    Received: May 24, 1999

    * Corresponding author(s): borrela@dpi.qld.gov.au
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  1. Andrew K. Borrell *a,
  2. Graeme L. Hammerb and
  3. Andrew C. L. Douglasa
  1. a Hermitage Research Station, Department of Primary Industries, Warwick Queensland 4370, Australia
    b QDPI/CSIRO Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit, Toowoomba Queensland 4350, Australia


Production of sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench], an important cereal crop in semiarid regions of the world, is often limited by drought. When water is limiting during the grain-filling period, hybrids possessing the stay-green trait maintain more photosynthetically active leaves than hybrids not possessing this trait. To improve yield under drought, knowledge of the extent of genetic variation in green leaf area retention is required. Field studies were undertaken in northeastern Australia on a cracking and self-mulching gray clay to determine the effects of water regime and hybrid on the components of green leaf area at maturity (GLAM). Nine hybrids varying in stay-green were grown under a fully irrigated control, postflowering water deficit, and terminal (pre- and postflowering) water deficit. Water deficit reduced GLAM by 67% in the terminal drought treatment compared with the fully irrigated control. Under terminal water deficit, hybrids possessing the B35 and KS19 sources of stay-green retained more GLAM (1260 cm2 plant−1) compared with intermediate (780 cm2 plant−1) and senescent (670 cm2 plant−1) hybrids. RQL12 hybrids (KS19 source of stay-green) displayed delayed onset and reduced rate of senescence; A35 hybrids displayed only delayed onset. Visual rating of green leaf retention was highly correlated with measured GLAM, although this procedure is constrained by an inability to distinguish among the functional mechanisms determining the phenotype. Linking functional rather than phenotypic differences to molecular markers may improve the efficiency of selecting for traits such as stay-green.

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