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Ann Bot. 2004 Sep;94(3):413-8. Epub 2004 Jul 26.

Relationships among vernalization, shoot apex development and frost tolerance in wheat.

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  • 1Research Institute of Crop Production, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, Drnovská 507, 161 06 Praha, Czech Republic.



Frost tolerance of wheat depends primarily upon a strong vernalization requirement, delaying the transition to the reproductive phase. The aim of the present study was to learn how saturation of the vernalization requirement and apical development stage are related to frost tolerance in wheat.


'Mironovskaya 808', a winter variety with a long vernalization requirement, and 'Leguan', a spring variety without a vernalization requirement, were acclimated at 2 degrees C at different stages of development. Plant development (morphological stage of the shoot apex), vernalization requirement (days to heading) and frost tolerance (survival of the plants exposed to freezing conditions) were evaluated.


'Mironovskaya 808' increased its frost tolerance more rapidly; it reached a higher level of tolerance and after a longer duration of acclimation at 2 degrees C than was found in 'Leguan'. The frost tolerance of 'Mironovskaya 808' decreased and its ability to re-acclimate a high tolerance was lost after saturation of its vernalization requirement, but before its shoot apex had reached the double-ridge stage. The frost tolerance of 'Leguan' decreased after the plants had reached the floret initiation stage.


The results support the hypothesis that genes for vernalization requirement act as a master switch regulating the duration of low temperature induced frost tolerance. In winter wheat, due to a longer vegetative phase, frost tolerance is maintained for a longer time and at a higher level than in spring wheat. After the saturation of vernalization requirement, winter wheat (as in spring wheat) established only a low level of frost tolerance.

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