Genetic improvement of grain yield and associated traits in the southern China winter wheat region: 1949 to 2000
To understand the genetic gains of grain yield in the Southern China Winter Wheat Region (SCWWR), two yield potential trials, i.e., YPT 1 including 11 leading cultivars from the Middle and Low Yangtze Valley (Zone III) and YPT 2 including 15 leading cultivars from the Southwestern China Region (Zone IV) from 1949 to 2000, were conduced during the 2001–2003 cropping seasons. A completely randomized block design of three replicates was employed with controlled field environments. Molecular markers were used to detect the presence of dwarfing genes and the 1B/1R translocation. Results showed that average annual genetic gain was 0.31% (P < 0.05) or 13.96 kg/ha/year and 0.74% (P < 0.01) or 40.80 kg/ha/year in Zones III and IV, respectively. In YPT 1, changes of all other traits were not significant, but plant height was significantly reduced. In YPT 2, the genetic improvement of grain yield was primarily attributed to the increased thousand kernel weight (TKW) (0.65%, P < 0.01) and kernel weight/spike (0.87%, P < 0.01), reduced plant height and increased harvest index (HI). The dwarfing gene Rht 8 was most frequently present (46.1%), Rht-B1b was observed in three genotypes in Zone III, and Rht-D1b was present in only one genotype in Zone IV. The 1B/1R translocation was present in four genotypes. Utilization of Italian germplasm and development of landmark cultivar Fan 7 were the key factors for grain yield improvement in SCWWR. The future challenge of wheat breeding in this region is to continue improving grain yield and disease resistance, and to develop cultivars suitable for the reduced tillage of wheat/rice double cropping. Utilization of Mexican germplasm could provide opportunities for future yield improvement.