In cereal crops, environmental fluctuations affect different physiological processes during various developmental phases associated with the formation of yield components. Because these effects are coupled with cultivar-specific phenology, studies investigating environmental responses in different cultivars can give contradictory results regarding key phases impacting yield performance. To dissect how genotype-by-environment interactions affect grain yield in winter wheat, we estimated the sensitivities of yield components to variation in global radiation, temperature and precipitation in 220 cultivars across 81 time-windows ranging from double ridge to seed desiccation. Environmental sensitivity responses were prominent in the short-term physiological subphases of spike and kernel development, causing phenologically dependent, stage-specific genotype-by-environment interactions. Here we reconcile contradicting findings from previous studies and show previously undetected effects; for example, the positive impact of global radiation on kernel weight during canopy senescence. This deep insight into the three-way interactions between phenology, yield formation and environmental fluctuations provides comprehensive new information for breeding and modelling cereal crops.
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The complete set of climate data and simulated soil data, yield components of all environments, and sensitivity and significance of yield components to all environmental variables of all genotypes and all time-windows are available in the Zenodo data repository54.
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Funding for this study was provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research grant no. 031A354. T.-W.C. was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) under project no. 442020478.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Sabir, K., Rose, T., Wittkop, B. et al. Stage-specific genotype-by-environment interactions determine yield components in wheat. Nat. Plants 9, 1688–1696 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-023-01516-8