Environmental Factors Affecting Pre-Maturity Alpha-Amylase Activity in Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

Major, Bernard James (1999). Environmental Factors Affecting Pre-Maturity Alpha-Amylase Activity in Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum). PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d65e


Pre-maturity alpha-amylase activity (PMAA) in the absence of sprouting is one of four causes of low Hagberg falling number (HFN) in UK winter wheat (Triticum aestivum), reducing the quality and value of milled flour. Other causes include the retention of pericarp alpha-amylase activity (RPAA), pre-maturity sprouting (PrMS) and post-maturity sprouting (PoMS). This thesis investigated the effects of environmental factors on PMAA which currently occurs in a variable and unpredictable fashion under UK weather conditions.

A multi-site field experiment on four cultivars (Haven, Hornet, Pastiche and Riband), at four sites (Harper Adams University College, University of Nottingham, University of Aberdeen and ADAS-Bridgets) between 1994-1996 was undertaken to:- establish the frequency of the causes of low HFN; examine the relationship between grain drying-rate and PMAA; determine if it was possible to predict combine harvest HFN.

A range of techniques including a visual sprouting assessment, fluorescein dibutyrate staining, iso-electric focusing and a beta-limit dextrin gel and iodine staining test were used to allow the cause of low HFN to be established. Of the forty crops analysed, 22 cases (45%) had detectable amounts of alpha-amylase activity. PMAA was identified solely in 2 cases (5%), in combination with PoMS in 8 cases (20%), in combination with RPAA in one case (2%), with PoMS occurring solely in 11 cases (28%). The HFN fell below the breadmaking standard of 250 s in 18 of the 36 site x year x cultivar combinations analysed. This was attributed solely to PMAA in two cases (11%), a combination of PMAA and PoMS in a further eight cases (44%) and solely to PoMS in eight cases(44%). There were no cases where PrMS or RPAA reduced the HFN to below 250 s.

The hypothesis that PMAA is related to the grain drying-rate between 40-20 % moisture content was tested. Grain drying-rate was determined by linear regression analysis using moisture content measurements made at regular intervals during grain development. In site x year x cultivar combinations where PMAA was detected the grain drying-rate was significantly (P = 0.047) lower (mean = 1.90 cf. 2.30% moisture loss day-1), suggesting a slow grain drying-rate enhances PMAA. However, the low frequency of occurrence of PMAA in isolation prevented quantification of this relationship.

Initiation of PMAA in the grain, was shown to occur from a grain moisture content of 47.8%. A pre-harvest sample taken by hand at 850 °C-days (35 % moisture, Zadoks growth stage 85-87) was shown to enable a prediction of combine harvest HFN to be made in the absence of subsequent rainfall and PoMS. The 95 % confidence limits associated with this HFN prediction were however wide.

The hypothesis that transient changes in temperature early in grain development may affect PMAA, before the onset of any grain drying-rate effects, was tested in five controlled-environment cabinet experiments. Of 36 cultivar x time of transfer combinations undertaken from a 16/ 10°C to a 26 /20°C temperature regime, six led to a significant increase (P < 0.05) arid one led to a significant decrease in PMAA. Of the 18 cultivar x time of transfer combinations undertaken from a 25 / 20°C to a 16 / 10°C temperature regime, one led to a significant increase and one led to a significant decrease in PMAA. A comparison between the field and controlled-environment experiment results highlighted that after conditions putatively stimulating PMAA had been encountered, subsequent environmental factors, such as mean temperature and relative humidity may also affect PMAA.

It was concluded that PMAA can be enhanced by transient increases in temperature before the grain reaches 40% moisture content and by a slow grain drying-rate between 40-20% moisture content. The variability in the results, however, also suggested other environmental factors were influencing PMAA.

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