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Acta Agron Sin ›› 2010, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (12): 2011-2019.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1006.2010.02011

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Mechanism and Regulation in the Filling of Inferior Spikelets of Rice

YANG  Jian-Chang   

  1. Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Physiology of Jiangsu Province / Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225009, China
  • Received:2010-08-16 Revised:2010-09-09 Online:2010-12-12 Published:2010-10-09

Abstract: Grain filling is the final growth stage in cereals when fertilized ovaries develop into caryopses. The degree and rate of grain filling in rice spikelets differ largely with their positions on a panicle. In general, earlier-flowering superior spikelets, usually located on apical primary branches, fill fast and produce larger and heavier grains. While later-flowering inferior spikelets, usually located on proximal secondary branches, are either sterile or fill slowly and produce smaller grains. The poor grain-filling of inferior spikelets is more aggravated in the new bred “super” rice cultivars that have numerous spikelets on a panicle. Poor filling of inferior spikelets not only limits the realization of great yield potential, but also degrades rice quality, especially milling and apparent qualities. There are many explanations to the poor filling of inferior spikelets, including carbon limitation, sink capacity limitation, unbalance in hormone levels, low activities and/or expressions of enzymes involved in sucrose-to-starch conversion, and “flow” impediment. Recent studies have shown that low physiological activities of sink (grains) at the initial grain filling and low conversion efficiency from sucrose to starch during the active grain filling period contribute to the poor filling of inferior spikelets. It is observed that the ratio of sugar to spikelets at the heading stage (amount of non-structural carbohydrate in the stems and sheaths over the number of spikelets at heading) significantly correlats with the physiological activities of sink, and the ratio of abscisic acid (ABA) to 1-aminocylopropane -1-carboxylic acid (ACC, a precursor of ethylene) significantly correlats with the grain filling rate, indicating that increases in the ratios of sugar to spikelets and of ABA to ethylene would be two important regulatory approaches to improve the filling of inferior spikelets. Further studies are essential by investigating how environmental factors (including cultivation techniques), factors of the whole plant, and factors within the spikelets regulate the filling of inferior spikelets. A deep understanding of the regulation mechanism that limits the filling of inferior spikelets would lead to efforts that could greatly enhance grain filling and, consequently, increase the yield performance of rice.

Key words: Rice, Superior spikelets, Inferior spikelets, Grain filling, Mechanism, Regulation

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