Heat and drought are among the major obstacles confronting crop production under climate change. The present study was conducted to evaluate 50 diverse wheat genotypes for cell membrane stability (CMS) and chlorophyll content at seedling and anthesis stages under heat and drought stress conditions, to understand the effect of the two abiotic factors and to find promising genotypes for future breeding. Experiments were conducted in the glasshouse (seedling stage) and the field (anthesis stage). Analysis of variance showed significant variation (P ≤ 0.05) for all of the traits at seedling and anthesis stages. High levels of broad-sense heritability and genetic advance at 5% selection intensity indicated the presence of a high genetic component of variation and potential for genetic improvement through selection among the existing genetic variation. CMS showed a significant positive correlation with 1000-grain weight (TGW) under heat and drought conditions at both seedling and anthesis stages. Chlorophyll a/b ratio at seedling stage exhibited a significant negative correlation (r = –0.39, P < 0.05) with TGW under heat stress. Total chlorophyll content was significantly (r = 0.42, P < 0.05) correlated with TGW under heat stress at anthesis. Genotypes ETAD248 and ETAD7 showed the highest CMS and TGW values, whereas their chlorophyll a/b values were lowest, at both seedling and anthesis stages under heat and drought stress conditions. Higher CMS and total chlorophyll content, and lower chlorophyll a/b, were found to be useful indicators to identify genotypes with high TGW under heat and drought stress conditions. This study indicated the possibility of using seedling resistance as an indicator for later stage response in breeding for heat and drought resistance. The resistant genotypes identified can be used as potential germplasm in breeding programs.
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Vol. 67 • No. 7