Combined agronomic and physiological aspects of nitrogen management in wheat highlight a central role for glutamine synthetase

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Summary

  • • In wheat the period of grain filling is characterized by a transition for all vegetative organs from sink to source status.
  • • To study this transition, the progression of physiological markers and enzyme activities representative of nitrogen metabolism was monitored from the vegetative stage to maturity in different leaf stages and stem sections of two wheat (Triticum aestivum) cultivars grown at high and low levels of N fertilization.
  • • In the two cultivars examined, we found a general decrease of the metabolic and enzyme markers occurred during leaf ageing, and that this decrease was enhanced when plants were N-limited. Both correlation studies and principal components analysis (PCA) showed that there was a strong relationship among total N, chlorophyll, soluble protein, ammonium, amino acids and glutamine synthetase (GS) activity.
  • • The use of a marker such as GS activity to predict the N status of wheat, as a function of both plant development and N availability, is discussed with the aim of selecting wheat genotypes with better N-use efficiency.

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