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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 25;8(7):e70006. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070006. Print 2013.

Donald's Ideotype and growth redundancy: a pot experimental test using an old and a modern spring wheat cultivar.

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State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology and Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


Human selection for high crop yield under water-limited conditions should have led modern cereal cultivars to invest less in root biomass, be it unconsciously. To test this hypothesis we conducted a pot experiment with two spring wheat cultivars, one old and one modern, both widely grown in the semi-arid regions of China. Using the replacement series method introduced by de Wit, we showed that the older landrace (Monkhead) was significantly more competitive than the more-modern cultivar (92-46). However, when grown in pure stand, old Monkhead had grown root biomass 3.5 times modern 92-46, whereas modern 92-46 gained a 20% higher grain yield. We also found modern 92-46 significantly increased root biomass per plant and root allocation (i.e., root biomass/total individual biomass) as its frequency in mixtures decreased, whereas old Monkhead did not respond in a similar way. This result suggests that the roots of modern cultivars may have gained an ability to recognize neighboring root systems and show more plastic self-restraining response to intra-cultivar competition.

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