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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Consequences of Crop Improvement for the Production, Distribution and Structure of Biomass in Lentil (Lens Culinaris Medik)

Authors
item Whitehead, S - U OF READING, READING, UK
item Summerfield, R - U OF READING, READING, UK
item Muehlbauer, Frederick
item Wheeler, T - U OF READING, READING, UK
item Erskine, W - ICARDA, ALEPPO, SYRIA

Submitted to: Field Crop Abstracts
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Lentil is an important crop in the semi-arid regions of the world where it is a vital component of cropping systems. The seeds are a dietary mainstay for the population, while the residues provide an important source of animal feed. In the U.S. lentil is an important rotational crop where it provides a needed break from what would otherwise be continuous cereals. Nevertheless, lentil production is in jeopardy because of the minimal amounts of biomass and residues that are produced. The residues from the crop are needed to maintain soil organic matter and to provide surface cover to prevent erosion. In this study, we determined the changes made to plant structure during domestication and subsequent selection and breeding efforts. These efforts over millennia have resulted in increased biomass production, improved seed yields and alterations of stem structure of the lentil plant. Recently developed germplasm and varieties have an angular stem structure rather than a round structure as found in the wild species of lentil. The angular structure of the stems are responsible for improved standing ability of the varieties which is needed to support the increased yields. The scope for further improvements of the plant structure of lentil and effects on biomass and residue production are discussed in the paper.

Technical Abstract: Despite a modest status in terms of world trade, lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) is a key food crop in many parts of Africa and Asia. In the Middle East, where lentil straw is a valuable feed, and in the Palouse region of the USA, where organic residues in the soil surface layer are critical in helping to restrict erosion, biomass production is also highly valued. Selection within local germplasm and, more recently, plant breeding have led to substantial improvements not only in seed yield but also in stability of yield. It is shown that a strong and positive correlation between seed yield and biomass production has persisted throughout domestication, whilst harvest index (HI), the ratio of seed to biomass, has remained relatively stable. The use of cultivars which are well-adapted to their environment maximises effective crop duration, resource capture and thereby dry matter accumulation and ultimately biomass and seed yield. The edevelopment of cultivars which are phenologically well-adapted to their environment, e.g. those which are able to avoid late-season drought through timely flowering and maturity, or cold-tolerant and disease resistant cultivars which are suitable for autumn sowing, are therefore likely to contribute substantially to future yield improvements. Seed losses of lentil at harvest can be substantial, especially when harvesting is mechanised, and so selection for traits which reduce such losses. (e.g. resistance to lodging, reduced pod shattering and pod drop), are necessary in order to further improve and stabilise recoverable yield. Achievements and prospects for the future in these and related issues are reviewed and discussed.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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