High ear number is key to achieving high wheat yields in the high-rainfall zone of south-western Australia

H. Zhang, Neil Turner, M.L. Poole, S. Asseng

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    The growth and yield of spring wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.) were examined to determine the actual and potential yields of wheat at a site in the high rainfall zone (HRZ) of south-western Australia. Spring wheat achieved yields of 5.5-5.9 t/ha in 2001 and 2003 when subsurface waterlogging was absent or minimal. These yields were close to the estimated potential, indicating that a high yield potential is achievable. In 2002 when subsurface waterlogging occurred early in the growing season, the yield of spring wheat was 40% lower than the estimated potential. The yield of wheat was significantly correlated with the number of ears per m(2) (r(2) = 0.81) and dry matter at anthesis (r(2) = 0.73). To achieve 5-6 t/ha of yield of wheat in the HRZ, 450 - 550 ears per m(2) and 10-11 t/ha dry matter at anthesis should be targetted. Attaining such a level of dry matter at anthesis did not have a negative effect on dry-matter accumulation during the post-anthesis period. The harvest index (0.36-0.38) of spring wheat was comparable with that in drier parts of south-western Australia, but relatively low given the high rainfall and the long growing season. This relatively low harvest index indicates that the selected cultivar bred for the low-and medium-rainfall zone in this study, when grown in the HRZ, may have genetic limitations in sink capacity arising from the low grain number per ear. We suggest that the yield of wheat in the HRZ may be increased further by increasing the sink capacity by increasing the number of grains per ear.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21-27
    Journal Australian Journal of Agricultural Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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