Final grain weight is not limited by the activity of key starch-synthesising enzymes during grain filling in wheat.

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Since starch is by far the major component of the mature wheat grain, it has been assumed that variation in the capacity for starch synthesis during grain filling can influence final grain weight. We investigated this assumption by studying a total of 54 wheat genotypes including elite varieties and landraces that were grown in two successive years in fields in the east of England. The weight, water content, sugars, starch, and maximum catalytic activities of two enzymes of starch biosynthesis, ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase and soluble starch synthase, were measured during grain filling. The relationships between these variables and the weights and starch contents of mature grains were analysed. Final grain weight showed few or no significant correlations with enzyme activities, sugar levels, or starch content during grain filling, or with starch content at maturity. We conclude that neither sugar availability nor enzymatic capacity for starch synthesis during grain filling significantly influenced final grain weight in our field conditions. We suggest that final grain weight may be largely determined by developmental processes prior to grain filling. Starch accumulation then fills the grain to a physical limit set by developmental processes. This conclusion is in accord with those from previous studies in which source or sink strength has been artificially manipulated.