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J Exp Bot. 2007;58(12):3429-38. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Trends in leaf photosynthesis in historical rice varieties developed in the Philippines since 1966.

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  • 1Division of Agricultural and Environmental Science, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RD, UK.


Crop improvement in terms of yield is rarely linked to leaf photosynthesis. However, in certain crop plants such as rice, it is predicted that an increase in photosynthetic rate will be required to support future grain yield potential. In order to understand the relationships between yield improvement and leaf photosynthesis, controlled environment conditions were used to grow 10 varieties which were released from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) between 1966 and 1995 and one newly developed line. Two growth light intensities were used: high light (1500 micromol m(-2) s(-1)) and low light (300 micromol m(-2) s(-1)). Gas exchange, leaf protein, chlorophyll, and leaf morphology were measured in the ninth leaf on the main stem. A high level of variation was observed among high light-grown plants for light-saturated photosynthetic rate per unit leaf area (P(max)), stomatal conductance (g), content of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco), and total leaf protein content. Notably, between 1966 and 1980 there was a decline in P(max), g, leaf protein, chlorophyll, and Rubisco content. Values recovered in those varieties released after 1980. This striking trend coincides with a previous published observation that grain yield in IRRI varieties released prior to 1980 correlated with harvest index whereas that for those released after 1980 correlated with biomass. P(max) showed significant correlations with both g and Rubisco content. Large differences were observed between high light- and low light-grown plants (photoacclimation). The photoacclimation 'range' for P(max) correlated with P(max) in high light-grown plants. It is concluded that (i) leaf photosynthesis may be systematically affected by breeding strategy; (ii) P(max) is a useful target for yield improvements where yield is limited by biomass production rather than partitioning; and (iii) the capacity for photoacclimation is related to high P(max) values.

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