Most modern wheat cultivars contain major dwarfing genes, but their effects on root growth are unclear. Near-isogenic lines (NILs) containing Rht-B1b, Rht-D1b, Rht-B1c, Rht8c, Rht-D1c, and Rht12 were used to characterize the effects of semi-dwarfing and dwarfing alleles on root growth of ‘Mercia’ and ‘Maris Widgeon’ wheat cultivars. Wheat seedlings were grown in gel chambers, soil-filled columns, and in the field. Roots were extracted and length and dry mass measured. No significant differences in root length were found between semi-dwarfing lines and the control lines in any experiment, nor was there a significant difference between the root lengths of the two cultivars grown in the field. Total root length of the dwarf lines (Rht-B1c, Rht-D1c, and Rht12) was significantly different from that of the control although the effect was dependent on the experimental methodology; in gel chambers root length of dwarfing lines was increased by ∼40% while in both soil media it was decreased (by 24–33%). Root dry mass was 22–30% of the total dry mass in the soil-filled column and field experiments. Root length increased proportionally with grain mass, which varied between NILs, so grain mass was a covariate for the analysis of variance. Although total root length was altered by dwarf lines, root architecture (average root diameter, lateral root:total root ratio) was not affected by reduced height alleles. A direct effect of dwarfing alleles on root growth during seedling establishment, rather than a secondary partitioning effect, was suggested by the present experiments.
- Triticum aestivum