Harnessing Genetic Variation in Leaf Angle to Increase Productivity of Sorghum bicolor
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The efficiency with which a plant intercepts solar radiation is determined primarily by its architecture. Understanding the genetic regulation of plant architecture and how changes in architecture affect performance can be used to improve plant productivity. Leaf inclination angle, the angle at which a leaf emerges with respect to the stem, is a feature of plant architecture that influences how a plant canopy intercepts solar radiation. Here we identify extensive genetic variation for leaf inclination angle in the crop plant Sorghum bicolor, a C4 grass species used for the production of grain, forage, and bioenergy. Multiple genetic loci that regulate leaf inclination angle were identified in recombinant inbred line populations of grain and bioenergy sorghum. Alleles of sorghum dwarf-3, a gene encoding a P-glycoprotein involved in polar auxin transport, are shown to change leaf inclination angle by up to 34° (0.59 rad). The impact of heritable variation in leaf inclination angle on light interception in sorghum canopies was assessed using functional-structural plant models and field experiments. Smaller leaf inclination angles caused solar radiation to penetrate deeper into the canopy, and the resulting redistribution of light is predicted to increase the biomass yield potential of bioenergy sorghum by at least 3%. These results show that sorghum leaf angle is a heritable trait regulated by multiple loci and that genetic variation in leaf angle can be used to modify plant architecture to improve sorghum crop performance.
author list (cited authors)
Truong, S. K., McCormick, R. F., Rooney, W. L., & Mullet, J. E.