Evaluation of the tolerance ability of wheat genotypes to drought stress: dissection through culm-reserves contribution and grain filling physiology
Drought stress is one of the limiting factors for grain filling and yield in wheat. The grain filling and determinants of individual grain weight depend on current assimilation and extent of remobilization of culm reserves to grains. A pot experiment was conducted with eight wheat cultivars at the Pot House to study the grain filling and the contributions of reserves in culm, including the sheath to grain yield under drought stress. Drought stress was enforced by restricting irrigation during the grain-filling period. The plants (tillers) were harvested at anthesis, milk-ripe, and maturity. The changes in dry weights of leaves, culm with sheath, spikes, and grains; and the contribution of culm reserves to grain yield were determined. Results revealed that drought stress considerably decreased the grain filling duration by 15–24% and grain yield by 11–34%. Further, drought-induced early leaf senescence and reduced total dry matter production indicate the minimum contribution of current assimilation to grain yield. The stress reduced the contribution of culm reserves, the water-soluble carbohydrates (WSCs), to the grains. The accumulation of culm WSCs reached peak at milk ripe stage in control, varied from 28.6 to 84 mg culm−1 and that significantly reduced in the range from 14.9 to 40.6 mg culm−1 in stressed plants. The residual culm WSCs in control and stressed plants varied from 1.23 to 8.12 and 1.00 to 3.40 mg g−1 culm dry mass, respectively. BARI Gom 24 exhibited a higher contribution of culm WSCs to grain yield under drought, while the lowest contribution was found in Kanchan. Considering culm reserves WSCs and their remobilization along with other studied traits, BARI Gom 24 showed greater drought tolerance and revealed potential to grow under water deficit conditions in comparison to other cultivars.