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Characterizing the resilience of seed-set and seed filling in cereals exposed to heat and drought

Felix Frimpong


Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is ranked as the fourth most important cereal crop worldwide. It is adaptable to many agro-ecological environments serving as a model plant to study the processes of cereal adaptation and tolerance to stress. As a consequence of climate change, barley is projected to have a yield reduction of 17-33% in the future.

We hypothesize that, the main processes affecting yield of barley when exposed to heat & drought or in combination are; seed-setting, the ability to fix and translocate photosynthates, as well as timing in the completion of its life cycle within a shorter duration. Understanding tolerance mechanisms employed by developing ears of cereals using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), observations of physiological traits and biochemical analysis is therefore essential.

In this project we will establish protocols, using a number of cutting edge non-invasive methods such as MRI, mobile Nuclear Magnetic Resonance sensors to characterize seed set and the dynamics of seed filling as influenced by heat & drought. MRI allows the observation of seed fertilization or abortion with near-microscopic resolution and will be developed into fast imaging and screening protocols. NMRs will be used to monitor the dynamics of seed filling by measuring dry matter accumulation in the spike, as well as the mobilization of starch from stems and leaves, and will provide information regarding changes in the relative water content of these organs.

Key words: Abiotic stress, Barley, Grain filling, MRI, NMR, Seed Set, Spike