Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 130, Issue 11, pp 2445–2461 | Cite as

Selection for water-soluble carbohydrate accumulation and investigation of genetic × environment interactions in an elite wheat breeding population

  • Ben Ovenden
  • Andrew Milgate
  • Chris Lisle
  • Len J. Wade
  • Greg J. Rebetzke
  • James B. Holland
Original Article


Key message

Water-soluble carbohydrate accumulation can be selected in wheat breeding programs with consideration of genetic × environmental interactions and relationships with other important characteristics such as relative maturity and nitrogen concentration, although the correlation between WSC traits and grain yield is low and inconsistent.


The potential to increase the genetic capacity for water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) accumulation is an opportunity to improve the drought tolerance capability of rainfed wheat varieties, particularly in environments where terminal drought is a significant constraint to wheat production. A population of elite breeding germplasm was characterized to investigate the potential for selection of improved WSC concentration and total amount in water deficit and well-watered environments. Accumulation of WSC involves complex interactions with other traits and the environment. For both WSC concentration (WSCC) and total WSC per area (WSCA), strong genotype × environment interactions were reflected in the clear grouping of experiments into well-watered and water deficit environment clusters. Genetic correlations between experiments were high within clusters. Heritability for WSCC was larger than for WSCA, and significant associations were observed in both well-watered and water deficit experiment clusters between the WSC traits and nitrogen concentration, tillering, grains per m2, and grain size. However, correlations between grain yield and WSCC or WSCA were weak and variable, suggesting that selection for these traits is not a better strategy for improving yield under drought than direct selection for yield.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) of Australia funding for this project (ICF00007) and a Grains Industry Research Scholarship for Ben Ovenden. The American Australian Association is gratefully acknowledged for the ConocoPhillips Education Fellowship awarded to Ben Ovenden. The authors thank Kerry Schirmer and Aaron Hutchison for their expert technical contributions and data collection. The authors also thank the reviewers for their improvements to the manuscript. The breeding lines used in this study were kindly provided by Australian Grains Technologies, InterGrain, HRZ Wheats (now Dow Seeds), Sydney University, LongReach Plant Breeders and CIMMYT.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

122_2017_2969_MOESM1_ESM.docx (92 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 91 kb)
122_2017_2969_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (88 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 87 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesYanco Agricultural InstituteYancoAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesWagga Wagga Agricultural InstituteWagga WaggaAustralia
  3. 3.National Institute for Applied Statistics Research AustraliaUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.Charles Sturt UniversityGraham CentreAustralia
  5. 5.School of Agriculture and Food SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.CSIRO Agriculture and FoodCanberraAustralia
  7. 7.USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit and Department of Crop and Soil SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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