Indirect selection for potential yield in early-generation, spaced plantings of wheat and other small-grain cereals: a review
Early-generation (e.g. F2–F4) selection for grain yield itself is frustrated in particular by the small amounts of seed available. However, there has long been an interest in traits related to yield and reasonably faithfully expressed in spaced planting arrangements using little seed; these are potentially useful as indirect selection criteria for yield, with the view to increasing genetic progress per unit cost. This subject is revisited in this review, targeting potential yield (yield in the absence of abiotic and biotic stresses) of small-grain cereals. A brief assessment of current breeding systems for self-pollinated crops such as wheat reveals that all have some stage during which selection among visually acceptable spaced plants has to, or could, be practiced. The relative performance of different genotypes in such spaced plantings is then explored, highlighting interactions arising from intergenotypic competition as well as from the extra space itself. The theory of indirect selection is presented, along with some practical examples. After a brief survey of possible selection traits and developments in high-throughput measurement, harvest index, fruiting efficiency and stomatal conductance (and its surrogates) are chosen for in-depth review. All three traits show promise, especially in the light of possible new ways of reducing the cost of their measurement in early generations. Remote sensing of foliage temperature for the detection of genotypic differences in stomatal conductance makes this clearly the most promising trait for thorough testing in commercial breeding populations. Such traits could be used directly or they could complement genomic selection in early generations.
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