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Determination of wheat spike and spikelet architecture and grain traits using X-ray Computed Tomography imaging

Hu, Zhou; Riche, Andrew B.; Hawkesford, Malcolm J.; Whalley, William R.; Atkinson, Brian S.; Sturrock, Craig J.; Mooney, Sacha J.

Determination of wheat spike and spikelet architecture and grain traits using X-ray Computed Tomography imaging Thumbnail


Zhou Hu

Andrew B. Riche

Malcolm J. Hawkesford

William R. Whalley

Brian S. Atkinson

Professor of Soil Physics


© 2021, The Author(s). Background: Wheat spike architecture is a key determinant of multiple grain yield components and detailed examination of spike morphometric traits is beneficial to explain wheat grain yield and the effects of differing agronomy and genetics. However, quantification of spike morphometric traits has been very limited because it relies on time-consuming manual measurements. Results: In this study, using X-ray Computed Tomography imaging, we proposed a method to efficiently detect the 3D architecture of wheat spikes and component spikelets by clustering grains based on their Euclidean distance and relative positions. Morphometric characteristics of wheat spikelets and grains, e.g., number, size and spatial distribution along the spike can be determined. Two commercial wheat cultivars, one old, Maris Widgeon, and one modern, Siskin, were studied as examples. The average grain volume of Maris Widgeon and Siskin did not differ, but Siskin had more grains per spike and therefore greater total grain volume per spike. The spike length and spikelet number were not statistically different between the two cultivars. However, Siskin had a higher spikelet density (number of spikelets per unit spike length), with more grains and greater grain volume per spikelet than Maris Widgeon. Spatial distribution analysis revealed the number of grains, the average grain volume and the total grain volume of individual spikelets varied along the spike. Siskin had more grains and greater grain volumes per spikelet from spikelet 6, but not spikelet 1–5, compared with Maris Widgeon. The distribution of average grain volume along the spike was similar for the two wheat cultivars. Conclusion: The proposed method can efficiently extract spike, spikelet and grain morphometric traits of different wheat cultivars, which can contribute to a more detailed understanding of the sink of wheat grain yield.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 26, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2021
Publication Date Mar 9, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 9, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2021
Journal Plant Methods
Electronic ISSN 1746-4811
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 1
Article Number 26
Public URL
Publisher URL


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