Heterosis, stress, and the environment: a possible road map towards the general improvement of crop yield | Photo Signalling | Scoop.it

Contemporary plant breeding is under pressure to improve crop productivity at a rate surpassing past achievements. Different research groups dealing with this issue reached similar conclusions that the solution lies in improved biomass production by way of enhanced light capture and use efficiency, modified photosystem biochemistry, and improved partitioning of assimilates to the economic part of the plant. There seems to be a consensus of sorts. This ‘opinion paper’ calls attention to the phenomenon of heterosis, as expressed in maize, sorghum, and other crops where, depending on the case and the trait, larger biomass and greater yield have been achieved without a change in growth duration, photosystem biochemistry, or harvest index. This discussion maintains that there is no consensus about the genetics or the genomics of heterosis in regulating yield under diverse environments. Therefore, in a search for the basis of heterosis in yield and adaptation, the discussion bypasses the genetics and searches for answers in the phenomics of heterosis. The heterotic phenotype in itself provides challenging and important hints towards improving the yield of open-pollinated crops in general. These hints are linked to the homeostasis of photosynthesis with respect to temperature, the photobiology of the plant as mediated by phytochrome, the architectural foundations of the formation of a large sink, and the associated hormones and signals in controlling sink differentiation and source–sink communication. This discussion does not lay out plans and protocols but provides clues to explore within and beyond the current thinking about breeding for high yield.