A reductionist approach to dissecting grain weight and yield in wheat.

Grain yield is a highly polygenic trait that is influenced by the environment and integrates events throughout the life cycle of a plant. In wheat, the major grain yield components often present compensatory effects among then, which alongside the polyploid nature of wheat, makes their genetic and physiological study challenging. We propose a reductionist and systematic approach as an initial step to understand the gene networks regulating each individual yield component. Here we focus on grain weight and discuss the importance of examining individual sub-components, not only to help in their genetic dissection, but also to inform our mechanistic understanding of how they interrelate. This knowledge should allow the development of novel combinations, across homoeologs and between complementary modes of action, thereby advancing towards a more integrated strategy for yield improvement. We argue that this will break barriers in terms of phenotypic variation, enhance our understanding of the physiology of yield, and potentially deliver improved on-farm yield.