A reduced‐tillering trait shows small but important yield gains in dryland wheat production


Reducing the number of tillers per plant using a tiller inhibition (tin ) gene has been considered as an important trait for wheat production in dryland environments. We used a spatial analysis approach with a daily time‐step coupled radiation and transpiration efficiency model to simulate the impact of the reduced‐tillering trait on wheat yield under different climate change scenarios across Australia’s arable land. Our results show a small but consistent yield advantage of the reduced‐tillering trait in the most water‐limited environments both under current and likely future conditions. Our climate scenarios show that whilst elevated [CO2] (e[CO2]) alone might limit the area where the reduced‐tillering trait is advantageous, the most likely climate scenario of e[CO2] combined with increased temperature and reduced rainfall consistently increased the area where restricted tillering has an advantage. Whilst long‐term average yield advantages were small (ranged from 31 to 51 kg ha−1 year−1), across large dryland areas the value is large (potential cost‐benefits ranged from Australian dollar 23 to 60 MIL/year). It seems therefore worthwhile to further explore this reduced‐tillering trait in relation to a range of different environments and climates, because its benefits are likely to grow in future dry environments where wheat is grown around the world.

Global Change Biology
Bangyou Zheng
Bangyou Zheng
Data Scientist / Digital Agronomist

a research scientist of digital agriculture at the CSIRO.