Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Functional traits associated with nitrogen use efficiency in wheat

Asplund, Linnea; Bergkvist, Göran; Weih, Martin


The association between functional traits and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) was investigated to assist the breeding of nitrogen (N) use-efficient bread wheat (Triticum aestivum ssp. aestivum) varieties. This study combined results from a climate chamber experiment involving 41 spring wheat varieties and a field experiment involving six winter and six spring wheat varieties grown with and without the application of mineral N fertiliser. The climate chamber experiment was analysed by partial least squares (PLS) regression, with several predictors and NUE as response, to identify traits related to NUE. Specific hypotheses were then tested in the field experiment. The PLS indicated six traits of particular importance for overall NUE: leaf chlorophyll (SPAD value) of the top leaf at stem elongation, grains ear(-1), ears pot(-1), straw biomass pot(-1), days between emergence and anthesis, and days between emergence and completed senescence. In the field experiment, the SPAD value of flag leaves of winter wheat around anthesis was positively correlated with NUE and total grain N, at both N levels. Fast development was positively correlated with high NUE and N uptake efficiency in spring wheat. Early senescence of the flag leaf was positively correlated with grain N concentration and negatively correlated with grain-specific N efficiency in winter wheat at low N fertilisation levels. The results indicate that high SPAD value of the top leaf might be a candidate trait that could be used in wheat breeding for improved NUE, while genetic variation in senescence could possibly be used to tailor varieties for different end-use quality when grown at low N. More studies are needed to validate these findings in other environments and for other genotypes.


Chlorophyll meter; genotype x environment interaction; field; spring wheat; senescence; Triticum aestivum L; winter wheat

Published in

Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil and Plant Science
2016, volume: 66, number: 2, pages: 153-169
Publisher: Taylor & Francis: STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles

Authors' information

Asplund, Linnea
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)