© CSIRO 2016. Many rainfed wheat production systems are reliant on stored soil water for some or all of their water inputs. Selection and breeding for root traits could result in a yield benefit; however, breeding for root traits has traditionally been avoided due to the difficulty of phenotyping mature root systems, limited understanding of root system development and function, and the strong influence of environmental conditions on the phenotype of the mature root system. This paper outlines an international field selection program for beneficial root traits at maturity using soil coring in India and Australia. In the rainfed areas of India, wheat is sown at the end of the monsoon into hot soils with a quickly receding soil water profile; in season water inputs are minimal. We hypothesised that wheat selected and bred for high yield under these conditions would have deep, vigorous root systems, allowing them to access and utilise the stored soil water at depth around anthesis and grain-filling when surface layers were dry. The Indian trials resulted in 49 lines being sent to Australia for phenotyping. These lines were ranked against 41 high yielding Australian lines. Variation was observed for deep root traits e.g. in eastern Australia in 2012, maximum depth ranged from 118.8 to 146.3cm. There was significant variation for root traits between sites and years, however, several Indian genotypes were identified that consistently ranked highly across sites and years for deep rooting traits.
Rich, S. M., Wasson, A. P., Richards, R. A., Katore, T., Prashar, R., Chowdhary, R., Saxena, D. C., Mamrutha, H. M., Zwart, A., Misra, S. C., Sai Prasad, S. V., Chatrath, R., Christopher, J., & Watt, M. (2016). Wheats developed for high yield on stored soil moisture have deep vigorous root systems. Functional Plant Biology, 43(2), 173-188. https://doi.org/10.1071/FP15182