Mining of hulled wheat species for yield gain in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum L.), tetraploid species (AABB) and spelt wheat (Triticum spelta L.), hexaploid species (AABBDD) are old world hulled wheat species cultivated centuries ago in different parts of the world. These species were later replaced by higher yielding bread and durum wheat in the last centuries. Grain yield is influenced by grain number per unit area and grain size which correlates positively with grain weight. Increasing the grain number was extensively and intensively explored in the past 100 years of wheat breeding which has nearly reached to saturation and leaves little room for further yield increase due to grain number?grain size trade off. Grain size/grain weight is believed to be major driving force for further improvement of wheat yield. Both the species have been characterised with larger grain size and higher grain weight; therefore an ideal source to improve the grain size/grain weight while maintaining the grain number per spike in the cultivated bread wheat. A total of 25 accessions each of emmer and spelt wheat with good grain size and weight were crossed with 5 elite bread wheat lines. In the F2 generation, recombinant lines with good grain size, higher grain weight and grains number were further backcrossed with bread wheat. Stable lines with free threshing were obtained at BC4F4 generations and were analysed for quality. Thousand grain weight (TGW) and harvest index (HI) ranged from 46-55g and 0.47-0.58 in stable lines respectively. Stable lines yielded 16-21% than the high yielding check while number of grains per spike was maintained as that of check. Stable lines involving spelt crosses have higher grain size, TGW and HI than emmer wheat crosses. Stable lines could be released directly as cultivar or else used as one of the parents in the wheat improvement programme.