How do timing, duration, and intensity of drought stress affect the agronomic performance of winter rye?
Winter rye (Secale cereale L.) will be especially affected by drought induced yield losses in Central and Eastern Europe in the future because it is predominantly cultivated on low-fertile soils with a poor water-holding capacity. In order to examine the performance of winter rye under different drought conditions, field experiments were carried out during the years 2011, 2012, and 2013 near Braunschweig, Germany. Two sets of genotypes were tested under severe, mild, pre-anthesis, and post-anthesis drought stress in rain-out shelters as well as under rainfed and well-watered conditions. The grain, straw, and total above ground biomass yields, harvest index, grain yield components, leaf area index (LAI), and phenological characteristics were examined, as well as phenotypic correlations between grain yield and further characteristics. Drought induced grain yield reduction ranged from 14 to 57%, while straw yield and harvest index were lesser affected by drought than the grain yield. Under drought conditions, fully ripe was reached up to twelve days earlier than under non water-limited conditions. Pre-anthesis drought mainly reduced spikes m−2 and kernels spike−1 while drought during grain filling reduced the 1000-kernel weight (TKW) only. The grain yield was positively associated with straw yield, spikes m−2, and kernels spike−1 under water limited conditions while the TWK was only positively associated with grain yield under drought during grain filling. Consequently, high pre-anthesis biomass as well as high numbers of spikes m−2 and kernels spike−1 are especially important for obtaining high grain yields under water-limited conditions. Focusing on these traits is, therefore, recommendable for developing drought tolerant rye genotypes.
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