Post-Anthesis Water-stressed Barley Maintains Grain Specific Weight Through Altered Grain Composition and Plant Architecture

Aaron Hoyle, Maree Brennan, Logan Rees, Gail Jackson, Stephen Hoad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Specific weight (SW) is a long-established measure used as a malting quality specification in barley, with an increased SW thought to result in a higher malt output. Specific weight is a product of individual grain density as determined by grain composition and structure, and grain packing efficiency in a container as determined by grain dimensions. We investigated the effect of moderate but prolonged post-anthesis water stress on barley plant and grain development using pots of cultivars with a known range of SWs to explore how altering plant growth influence SW. Water stress was expected to influence these grain characteristics through decreased photosynthetic capacity. We demonstrated that SW was maintained under water stress conditions through compensatory mechanisms such as increased tiller mortality which preserved grain physical parameters on the main shoots. However, water stress significantly affected plant development by reducing not only ear number and yield, but also grain filling duration, plant biomass and ear length. Grain composition was also altered, with water-stressed plants having reduced carbon:nitrogen. Therefore, although SW can be conserved under water-stressed conditions, grain composition and plant development are altered, producing smaller harvests with higher grain nitrogen content. This would result in bulks of malting barley having different malt outputs despite having the same SW
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1564
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020


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