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Keywords:

  • development;
  • growth;
  • genetic variability;
  • maize (Zea mays);
  • response;
  • rice (Oryza spp.);
  • temperature;
  • wheat (Triticum aestivum)

Summary

  • Rates of tissue expansion, cell division and progression in the plant cycle are driven by temperature, following common Arrhenius-type response curves.
  • We analysed the genetic variability of this response in the range 6–37°C in seven to nine lines of maize (Zea mays), rice (Oryza spp.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum) and in 18 species (17 crop species, different genotypes) via the meta-analysis of 72 literature references.
  • Lines with tropical or north-temperate origins had common response curves over the whole range of temperature. Conversely, appreciable differences in response curves, including optimum temperatures, were observed between species growing in temperate and tropical areas.
  • Therefore, centuries of crop breeding have not impacted on the response of development to short-term changes in temperature, whereas evolution over millions of years has. This slow evolution may be a result of the need for a synchronous shift in the temperature response of all developmental processes, otherwise plants will not be viable. Other possibilities are discussed. This result has important consequences for the breeding and modelling of temperature effects associated with global changes.