Ecophysiology with barley eceriferum (cer) mutants: the effects of humidity and wax crystal structure on yield and vegetative parameters

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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: In addition to preventing water loss, plant cuticles must also regulate nutrient loss via leaching. The eceriferum mutants in Hordeum vulgare (barley) potentially influence these functions by altering epicuticular wax structure and composition. METHODS: Cultivar 'Bonus' and five of its cer mutants were grown under optimal conditions for vegetative growth and maturation, and nine traits were measured. Nutrient and water amounts going through the soil and the amount of simulated rain as deionized water, affecting phyllosphere humidity, delivered during either the vegetative or maturation phase, were varied. Cer leaf genes and three wilty (wlt) mutations were characterized for reaction to toluidine blue and the rate of non-stomatal water loss. KEY RESULTS: Vegetative phase rain on 'Bonus' significantly decreased kernel weight and numbers by 15-30 %, while in cer.j59 and .c36 decreases of up to 42 % occurred. Maturation phase findings corroborated those from the vegetative phase. Significant pleiotropic effects were identified: cer.j59 decreased culm and spike length and 1000-kernel weight, .c36 decreased kernel number and weight, .i16 decreased spike length and .e8 increased culm height. Excepting Cer.zv and .ym mutations, none of the other 27 Cer leaf genes or wlt mutations played significant roles, if any, in preventing water loss. Cer.zv and .ym mutants lost non-stomatal water 13.5 times faster than those of Cer.j, .yi, .ys and .zp and 18.3 times faster than those of four cultivars and the mutants tested here. CONCLUSIONS: Using yield to measure the net effect of phyllosphere humidity and wax crystal structure revealed that the former is far more important than the latter. The amenable experimental setup described here can be used to delve deeper. Significant pleiotropic effects were identified for mutations in four Cer genes, of which one is known to participate in wax biosynthesis. Twenty-seven Cer leaf genes and three wlt mutations have little if any effect on water loss.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)301-313
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Eceriferum (Cer) genes, Hordeum vulgare (barley), ecophysiology, epicuticular wax structure, hydrophilic domains, kernel yield, nutrient leaching, phyllosphere humidity, plant cuticle, water loss

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