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Molecular And Physiological Approaches To Maize Improvement For Drought Tolerance.

W. Bruce, G. Edmeades, T. Barker
Published 2002 · Medicine, Biology

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Average maize yields have increased steadily over the years in the USA and yet the variations in harvestable yield have also markedly increased. Much of the increase in yield variability can be attributed to (1) varying environmental stress conditions; (2) improved nitrogen inputs and better weed control; and (3) continuing sensitivity of different maize lines to the variation in input supply, especially rainfall. Drought stress alone can account for a significant percentage of average yield losses. Yet despite variable environments, new commercially available maize hybrids continue to be produced each year with ever-increasing harvestable yield. Since many factors contribute to high plant performance under water deficits, efforts are being made to elucidate the nature of water-stress tolerance in an attempt to improve maize hybrids further. Such factors include better partitioning of biomass to the developing ear resulting in faster spikelet growth and improved reproductive success. An emphasis on faster spikelet growth rate may result in a reduction in the number of spikelets formed on the ear that facilitates overall seed set by reducing water and carbon constraints per spikelet. To understand the molecular mechanisms for drought tolerance in improved maize lines better, a variety of genomic tools are being used. Newer molecular markers and comprehensive gene expression profiling methods provide opportunities to direct the continued breeding of genotypes that provide stable grain yield under widely varied environmental conditions.
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