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New Phytol. 2013 May;198(3):801-20. doi: 10.1111/nph.12192. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Large-scale characterization of drought pattern: a continent-wide modelling approach applied to the Australian wheatbelt--spatial and temporal trends.

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The University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, 203 Tor Street, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia.


Plant response to drought is complex, so that traits adapted to a specific drought type can confer disadvantage in another drought type. Understanding which type(s) of drought to target is of prime importance for crop improvement. Modelling was used to quantify seasonal drought patterns for a check variety across the Australian wheatbelt, using 123 yr of weather data for representative locations and managements. Two other genotypes were used to simulate the impact of maturity on drought pattern. Four major environment types summarized the variability in drought pattern over time and space. Severe stress beginning before flowering was common (44% of occurrences), with (24%) or without (20%) relief during grain filling. High variability occurred from year to year, differing with geographical region. With few exceptions, all four environment types occurred in most seasons, for each location, management system and genotype. Applications of such environment characterization are proposed to assist breeding and research to focus on germplasm, traits and genes of interest for target environments. The method was applied at a continental scale to highly variable environments and could be extended to other crops, to other drought-prone regions around the world, and to quantify potential changes in drought patterns under future climates.

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