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Remobilisation Of Carbon And Nitrogen Supports Seed Filling In Chickpea Subjected To Water Deficit

S. L. Davies, N. C. Turner, J. A. Palta, K. H. M. Siddique, J. A. Plummer

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In the Mediterranean-type environment of south-western Australia, pod filling of chickpea occurs when net photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation is low as a result of the onset of terminal drought. Remobilisation of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) from vegetative parts to developing seed may be an important alternative source of C and N for seed filling. The contribution of stored pre-podding C and N to seed filling was studied by labelling the vegetative tissues with the stable isotopes, 13C and 15N, prior to podding and following their subsequent movement to the seed. In ICCV88201, an advanced desi breeding line, 9% of the C and 67% of the N in the seed were derived from pre-podding C and N in well-watered plants compared with 13% of the seed C and 88% of the seed N in water-stressed plants. Furthermore, the contribution of pre-podding C and N was higher for earlier set compared with later set seeds. Pre-podding C and N were derived predominantly from the leaves with relatively little from the stems, roots, and pod walls. Genotypic variation in remobilisation ability was identified in contrasting desi (Tyson) and kabuli (Kaniva) cultivars. In well-watered Tyson, 9% of the seed C and 85% of the seed N were remobilised from vegetative tissues compared with 7% of the seed C and 62% of seed N in well-watered Kaniva. Water deficit decreased the amount of C remobilised by 3% in Tyson compared with 66% in Kaniva, whereas the total amount of N remobilised was decreased by 11% in Tyson and 48% in Kaniva. This was related to the maintenance of greater sink strength in Tyson, in which the number of filled pods was reduced by 66% in stressed plants compared with a 91% decrease in Kaniva. This indicates that better drought tolerance in desi genotypes is partly a consequence of better remobilisation and higher pod number. These studies show that C and N assimilated prior to podding can supplement the supply of current assimilates to the filling seed in both well-watered and water-stressed chickpea. Remobilisation of pre-podding N is an essential source of N for seed filling irrespective of environmental stress.