Modelling concept of lettuce breeding for nutrient efficiency
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Modern lettuce cultivars are bred for use under high levels of input of water and nutrients, and therefore less adapted to low-input or organic conditions in which nitrate availability varies over time and within the soil profile. To create robust cultivars it is necessary to assess which traits contribute to optimal resource capture and maximum resource use efficiency. We therefore revisited earlier published results on root growth, resource capture and resource use efficiency of lettuce exposed to localized drought and nitrate shortage in a pot experiment. Root growth in a soil profile with localized resource shortage depended on the resource that was in short supply. We conceptualized a model describing nitrogen uptake and use efficiency. We also investigated the genetic variation among 148 cultivars in resource capture over time and soil depth and in resource use efficiency in four (two locations × two planting dates) field experiments. Cultivars proved to be highly diverse in their ability to capture and use resources. This ability, however, was strongly affected by other sources of variance, stressing the need for an eco-physiological model capable of reducing the residual variance and improving the expression and evaluation of cultivar differences in relation to both resource capture and use efficiency in lettuce. We showed that genetic variation was best expressed under limiting conditions. To improve the conceptualized model further we identified issues requiring further analysis, e.g., the physiological reasons why certain cultivars are capable of quickly responding to changes in the environment to maintain optimal resource capture.
KeywordsDrought stress Modelling concept Nitrogen use efficiency Organic Root growth Resource capture
The authors thank Peter van der Putten, Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Wageningen University, for his assistance and guidance in trial design and coordination, and his valuable technical support in collecting and processing samples. They also thank Martin Koper, Enza Zaden BV, and Jan Velema, Marcel van Diemen and Pieter Schwegman, Vitalis Organic Seeds BV, for providing seeds, advice, and insight. The project was financially supported through the Top Institute Green Genetics (project number: 2CFD024RP).
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