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New Phytol. 2014 Aug;203(3):817-30. doi: 10.1111/nph.12869. Epub 2014 Jun 4.

Stay-green alleles individually enhance grain yield in sorghum under drought by modifying canopy development and water uptake patterns.

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Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), Hermitage Research Facility, University of Queensland, Warwick, Qld, 4370, Australia.


Stay-green is an integrated drought adaptation trait characterized by a distinct green leaf phenotype during grain filling under terminal drought. We used sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), a repository of drought adaptation mechanisms, to elucidate the physiological and genetic mechanisms underpinning stay-green. Near-isogenic sorghum lines (cv RTx7000) were characterized in a series of field and managed-environment trials (seven experiments and 14 environments) to determine the influence of four individual stay-green (Stg1-4) quantitative trait loci (QTLs) on canopy development, water use and grain yield under post-anthesis drought. The Stg QTL decreased tillering and the size of upper leaves, which reduced canopy size at anthesis. This reduction in transpirational leaf area conserved soil water before anthesis for use during grain filling. Increased water uptake during grain filling of Stg near-isogenic lines (NILs) relative to RTx7000 resulted in higher post-anthesis biomass production, grain number and yield. Importantly, there was no consistent yield penalty associated with the Stg QTL in the irrigated control. These results establish a link between the role of the Stg QTL in modifying canopy development and the subsequent impact on crop water use patterns and grain yield under terminal drought.


canopy development; drought adaptation; grain yield; quantitative trait loci (QTLs); sorghum; stay-green; water uptake

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