Intraspecific variation in sensitivity of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to ambient ozone in northern China as assessed by ethylenediurea (EDU)
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Wheat is a major staple food and its sensitivity to the gas pollutant ozone (O3) depends on the cultivar. However, few chamber-less studies assessed current ambient O3 effects on a large number of wheat cultivars. In this study, we used ethylenediurea (EDU), an O3 protectant whose protection mechanisms are still unclear, to test photosynthetic pigments, gas exchange, antioxidants, and yield of 15 cultivars exposed to 17.4 ppm h AOT40 (accumulated O3 over an hourly concentration threshold of 40 ppb) over the growing season at Beijing suburb, China. EDU significantly increased light-saturated photosynthesis rate (Asat), photosynthetic pigments (i.e., chlorophyll and carotenoid), and total antioxidant capacity, while reduced malondialdehyde and reduced ascorbate contents. In comparison with EDU-treated plants (control), plants treated with water (no protection from ambient O3) significantly decreased yield, weight of 1000 grains, and harvest index by 20.3%, 15.1%, and 14.2%, respectively, across all cultivars. There was a significant interaction between EDU and cultivars in all tested variables with exception of Asat, chlorophyll, and carotenoid. The cultivar-specific sensitivity to O3 was ranked from highly sensitive (> 25% change) to less sensitive (< 10% change) by comparing the difference of the average grain yield of plants applied with and without EDU. Neither stomatal conductance nor antioxidant capacity contributed to the different response of the cultivars to EDU, suggesting that another mechanism contributes to the large variation in response to O3 among cultivars. Generally, the results indicate that present O3 concentration is threatening wheat production in Northern China, highlighting the urgent need for policy-making actions to protect this critical staple food.
KeywordsAntioxidant capacity Ethylenediurea O3 pollution Risk assessment Winter wheat Yield loss
This work was supported by the State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture (No. Y20160030), the Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) for Senior Scientists (Grant Number 2016VBA057 and 2013T2Z0009), and the CNR-CAS bilateral agreement 2017–2019 (Ozone impacts on plant ecosystems in China and Italy).
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