Flowering in small-grain cereals under heat stress
Enhancing the yield potential and fitness of small-grain cereals is a priority for global food security. Most of the cereal growing areas of the world however, experience environmental stresses such as drought and high temperature that adversely affect yield, by for example, accelerating senescence in winter when days are still short. This prevents the crops to grow deeper root systems and it stops the vegetative phases to develop enough leaf area to ensure that solar radiation is intercepted during the critical growth periods. Flowering stage in this regard is one of the more sensitive to drought and high temperature stresses. Numerous studies demonstrate that variation in flowering time correlates with yield. Ensuring abundant and uniform flowering during favorable weather conditions is one of the major research goals.
Aside from genetic dissection studies identifying traits to better control flowering time to avoid stress, the researchers are also probing through biostimulants to let the cereals gain resilience during hotter periods, or indirectly manipulate flowering time. However little is known about the mechanisms of action of these inputs, which is key to optimize the application time, method and amount, as well as maximize the gain out of the product. We can help to identify the underlying mechanisms responsible for the effects, as the selection of the appropriate product is critical since the effects can vary significantly among species.