In wheat (Triticum spp.), modifying inflorescence (spike) morphology can increase grain number and size and thus improve yield. Here, we demonstrated the potential for manipulating and predicting spike morphology, based on 44 traits. In 12 wheat cultivars, we observed that detillering (removal of branches), which alters photosynthate distribution, changed spike morphology. Our genome-wide association study detected close associations between carbon partitioning (e.g. tiller number, main shoot dry weight) and spike morphology (e.g. spike length, spikelet density) traits in 210 cultivars. Most carbon-partitioning traits (e.g. tiller dry weight, harvest index) demonstrated high prediction abilities (>0.5). For spike morphology, some traits (e.g. total and fertile spikelet number, spike length) displayed high prediction abilities (0.3-0.5), but others (e.g. spikelet fertility, spikelet density) exhibited low prediction abilities (<0.2). Grain size traits were closely correlated in field and greenhouse experiments. Stepwise regression analysis suggests that significantly associated traits in the greenhouse explain 35.35% of the variation in grain yield and 67.63% of the variation in thousand-kernel weight in the field. Therefore, the traits identified in this study affect spike morphology; these traits can be used to predict and improve plant architecture and thus increase yield.
School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University
Nanjing 210023, China