Phosphorus (P) recovery and P-use efficiency (PUE) by wheat are low, and genetic improvement in PUE is a potential means of improving the effectiveness of P in farming systems. We examined variation in response to P in wheat to identify genotypes that showed consistent responsiveness to P fertiliser in the field and which may be the target of future studies, and examined differences in P uptake and partitioning. The response to P was studied among a diverse set of bread wheat germplasm at three sites in South Australia between 2009 and 2012. Up to 53 varieties and breeding lines were grown at two rates of P, 0 kg/ha and 30 kg/ha. Grain yield at 0 kg P/ha and response to P varied independently among genotypes. There were large effects of site and season on the response to P, but some genotypes showed consistently low and others high response to P. Analysis of a subset of lines revealed large responses in vegetative growth to P but the response diminished as crops matured, and variation in early vegetative growth was unrelated to the responses in biomass at maturity or grain yield. Genotypic variation in grain yield was more strongly related to variation in P utilisation efficiency than to variation in P uptake among wheat genotypes, which was associated with differences in P harvest index (PHI). Although breeding has improved yield, there has been no significant genetic gain in total P uptake; rather, improvements in PUE have been associated with an increase in P utilisation efficiency and PHI.
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Vol. 66 • No. 5