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Effect of assimilate competition during early seed development on the pod and seed growth traits in soybean


Although the seed remains small in size during the initial stage of seed development (the lag phase), several studies indicate that environment and assimilate supply level manipulations during the lag phase affect the final seed size. However, the manipulations were not only at the lag phase, making it difficult to understand the specific role of the lag phase in final seed size determination. It also remained unclear whether environmental cues are sensed by plants and regulate seed development or if it is simply the assimilate supply level, changed by the environment, that affects the subsequent seed development. We investigated soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) seed phenotypes grown in a greenhouse using different source-sink manipulations (shading and removal of flowers and pods) during the lag phase. We show that assimilate supply is the key factor controlling flower and pod abortion and that the assimilate supply during the lag phase affects the subsequent potential seed growth rate during the seed filling phase. In response to low assimilate supply, plants adjust flower/pod abortion and lag phase duration to supply the minimum assimilate per pod/seed. Our results provide insight into the mechanisms whereby the lag phase is crucial for seed development and final seed size potential, essential parameters that determine yield.

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We thank Drs. Dennis B. Egli and Anthony J. Clark, and Ms. Ashwini Shivakumar for their critical comments on this manuscript.


PB, JT, MS, and TK were supported by USDA-NIFA ELI-REEU 2017-06637. TK was supported by USDA-NIFA Hatch Program 1014280.

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Correspondence to Montserrat Salmerόn or Tomokazu Kawashima.

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Communicated by Lars Ostergaard.

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Ali, M.F., Brown, P., Thomas, J. et al. Effect of assimilate competition during early seed development on the pod and seed growth traits in soybean. Plant Reprod (2022).

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  • Assimilate supply
  • Lag phase
  • Embryo and endosperm development
  • Seed growth traits