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The sowing date and post-flowering water status affect the sugar and grain production of photoperiodic, sweet sorghum through the regulation of sink size and leaf area dynamics

Tovignan K.T., Fonceka D., Ndoye I., Cissé N., Luquet D.. 2016. Field Crops Research, 192 : p. 67-77.

DOI: 10.1016/j.fcr.2016.04.015

The combined production of grain and sugar by sorghum requires efficient leaf C acquisition (source) and allocation to productive sinks, namely the stem and the panicle. Photoperiod sensitivity, which regulates plant phenology and growth, is also likely to be a key regulator of such C source-sink relationships, while it is crucial to drought adaptation. This study set out to evaluate the contribution of plant leaf area and stem growth to the production of grain and sugar by sweet, photoperiodic sorghum depending on the sowing date and post-flowering water availability. Twelve West African accessions were studied in the field in Senegal during two consecutive rainy seasons, comparing two sowing dates and post-anthesis water regimes (irrigated, or not). Plant growth and development were monitored weekly up to flowering. Organ size and biomass, stem juiciness and sweetness were characterized at flowering and maturity. At flowering, early sowing enhanced plant leaf area, stem dry weight and sugar production, and plant leaf area expressed per unit of stem dry weight was positively correlated to stem sweetness, suggesting that a high pre-flowering source-to-sink ratio favors early sugar accumulation. Overall, a late sowing date reduced sugar and grain production more than post-anthesis drought, whereas early sowing enhanced both types of production. No post-anthesis competition was found between grain filling and stem sugar accumulation. However, under drought conditions, the maintenance of combined production was better for the most leaf stay-green accessions. It is suggested that the combined production of sugar and grain by sweet, photoperiodic sorghum in response to the sowing date and post-anthesis drought is firstly sink-driven but that source (plant leaf area) dynamics can enhance stem sugar accumulation and its maintenance under drought conditions. These results provide further insight into the traits to be combined in dual-purpose ideotypes dedicated to drought-prone environments.

Mots-clés : sorghum bicolor; photopériodicité; phénologie; physiologie végétale; développement biologique; sécheresse; date de semis; rendement des cultures; sénégal; afrique occidentale

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