This study investigated trade-offs between parameters determining water use efficiency of wheat under elevated CO2 in contrasting growing seasons and a semi-arid environment. We also evaluated whether previously reported negative relationships between nutrient content and transpiration efficiency among wheat genotypes will be maintained under elevated CO2 conditions. Two cultivars of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), Scout and Yitpi, purportedly differing in water use efficiency related traits (e.g. transpiration efficiency) but with common genetic backgrounds were studied in a high yielding, high rainfall (2013), and in a low yielding, very dry growing season (2014) under Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE, CO2 concentration of approximately 550 μmol mol-1) and ambient (approximately 390 μmol mol-1) CO2. Gas exchange measurements were collected diurnally between stem elongation and anthesis. Aboveground biomass and nutrient content (sum of Ca, K, S, P, Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn and Mg) were determined at anthesis. Yield, yield components and harvest index were measured at physiological maturity. Cultivar Scout showed transiently greater transpiration efficiency (measured by gas exchange) over cultivar Yitpi under both ambient and elevated CO2 conditions, mainly expressed in the high yielding but not in the low yielding season. Nutrient content was on average 13% greater for the lower transpiration efficiency cultivar Yitpi than the cultivar with higher transpiration efficiency (Scout) in the high yielding season across both CO2 concentrations. Elevated CO2 stimulated grain yield to a greater extent in the high yielding season than in the low yielding season where increased aboveground biomass earlier in the season did not translate into fertile tillers in cultivar Yitpi. Yield increased 27 and 33% in the high yielding and 0 and 19% in the low yielding season for cultivars Yitpi and Scout, respectively. Intraspecific variation in CO2 responsiveness related mechanisms of grain yield were observed. These results suggest CO2-driven trade-offs between traits governing water use efficiency are related to both growing season and intraspecific variations, and under very dry finishes, the trade-offs may even reverse. The negative relationship between nutrient content and transpiration efficiency among wheat genotypes will be maintained under elevated CO2 conditions.
Houshmandfar, A., Fitzgerald, G. J., Macabuhay, A. A., Armstrong, R., Tausz-Posch, S., Löw, M., & Tausz, M. (2016). Trade-offs between water-use related traits, yield components and mineral nutrition of wheat under Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE). European Journal of Agronomy, 76, 66–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2016.01.018