Mutations in barley row type genes have pleiotropic effects on shoot branching

Liller, Corinna Brit; Neuhaus, René; Korff, Maria Von; Koornneef, Maarten; Esse, Wilma Van


Cereal crop yield is determined by different yield components such as seed weight, seed number per spike and the tiller number and spikes. Negative correlations between these traits are often attributed to resource limitation. However, recent evidence suggests that the same genes or regulatory modules can regulate both inflorescence branching and tillering. It is therefore important to explore the role of genetic correlations between different yield components in small grain cereals. In this work, we studied pleiotropic effects of row type genes on seed size, seed number per spike, thousand grain weight, and tillering in barley to better understand the genetic correlations between individual yield components. Allelic mutants of nine different row type loci (36 mutants), in the original spring barley varieties Barke, Bonus and Foma and introgressed in the spring barley cultivar Bowman, were phenotyped under greenhouse and outdoor conditions.We identified two main mutant groups characterized by their relationships between seed and tillering parameters. The first group comprises all mutants with an increased number of seeds and significant change in tiller number at early development (group 1a) or reduced tillering only at full maturity (group 1b). Mutants in the second group are characterized by a reduction in seeds per spike and tiller number, thus exhibiting positive correlations between seed and tiller number. Reduced tillering at full maturity (group 1b) is likely due to resource limitations. In contrast, altered tillering at early development (groups 1a and 2) suggests that the same genes or regulatory modules affect inflorescence and shoot branching. Understanding the genetic bases of the trade-offs between these traits is important for the genetic manipulation of individual yield components.