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Sensitivity of Wheat and Rice to Low Levels of Atmospheric Ethylene


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 42 No. 3, p. 746-753
    Received: Apr 9, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): bugbee@cc.usu.edu
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  1. Stephen P. Klassen and
  2. Bruce Bugbee *
  1. Crop Physiology Laboratory, Dep. of Plants, Soils and Biometeorology, Utah State Univ., Logan, UT 84322-4820


Ethylene (C2H4) gas is produced throughout the life cycle of plants and can accumulate in closed growth chambers to levels 100 times higher than in outside environments. Elevated atmospheric C2H4 can cause a variety of abnormal responses, but the sensitivity to elevated C2H4 is not well characterized. We evaluated the C2H4 sensitivity of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rice (Oryza sativa L.) in five studies. The first three studies compared the effects of continuous C2H4 levels ranging from 0 to 1000 nmol mol−1 (ppb) in a growth chamber throughout the life cycle of the plants. A short-term 1000 nmol mol−1 treatment was included in which exposure was stopped at anthesis. Yield was reduced by 36% in wheat and 63% in rice at 50 nmol mol−1 and both species were virtually sterile when continuously exposed to 1000 nmol mol−1 However, the yield reductions were much less with exposure that stopped at anthesis, suggesting the detrimental effect of C2H4 on yield was greatest around the time of seed set. Two additional studies evaluated the differential sensitivity of two wheat cultivars (Super Dwarf and USU-Apogee) to 50 nmol mol−1 C2H4 at three CO2 levels [350, 1200, 5000 μmol mol−1 (ppm)] in a greenhouse. Yield of USU-Apogee was not significantly reduced by C2H4 but the yield of Super Dwarf was reduced by 60%. Elevated CO2 did not influence the sensitivity to C2H4 A difference in the C2H4 sensitivity of USU-Apogee between greenhouse and growth chamber trials suggests that C2H4 sensitivity is dependent on the environment. Collectively, the data suggest that relatively low levels of C2H4 could induce anomalous plant responses by accumulation in greenhouses and growth chambers with inadequate ventilation. The data also suggest that C2H4 sensitivity can be reduced by both genetic and environmental manipulations.

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Copyright © 2002. Crop Science Society of AmericaPublished in Crop Sci.42:746–753.