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Ann Bot. 2002 Jul;90(1):87-98.

Tillering in grain sorghum over a wide range of population densities: identification of a common hierarchy for tiller emergence, leaf area development and fertility.

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  • 1CIRAD-CA, Programme Cultures Alimentaires, Montpellier, France.


Most studies of tiller development have not related the physiological and morphological features of each culm to its subsequent fertility. This introduces problems when trying to account for the effects of tillering on yield in crop models. The objective of this study was to detect the most likely early determinants of tiller fertility in sorghum by identifying hierarchies for emergence, fertility and grain number of tillers over a wide range of assimilate availabilities. Emergence, phenology, leaf area development and dry weight partitioning were quantified weekly for individual tillers and main culms of tillering and uniculm plants grown at one of four densities, from two to 16 plants m(-2). For a given plant in any given density, the same tiller hierarchy applied for emergence of tillers, fertility of the emerged tillers and their subsequent grain number. These results were observed over a range of tiller fertility rates (from 7 to 91%), fertile tiller number per plant at maturity (from 0.2 to 4.7), and tiller contribution to grain yield (from 5 to 78 %). Tiller emergence was most probably related to assimilate supply and light quality. Development, fertility and contribution to yield of a specific tiller were highly dependent on growing conditions at the time of tiller emergence, particularly via early leaf area development of the tiller, which affected its subsequent leaf area accumulation. Assimilate availability in the main culm at the time of tiller emergence was the most likely early determinant of subsequent tiller fertility in this study.

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