Front Plant Sci. 2022 Oct 24;13:1019491. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2022.1019491. eCollection 2022.
Ideotype breeding is an essential approach for selection of desired combination of plant traits for testing in crop growth model for potential yield gain in specific environments and management practices. Here we parameterized plant traits for untested lentil cultivars for the APSIM-lentil model in phenology, biomass, and seed yield. We then tested these against independent data and applied the model in an extrapolated analysis (i) to assess the impact of drought on productivity across different rainfall environments; (ii) to identify impactful plant traits and (iii) to design new lentil ideotypes with a combination of desirable traits that mitigate the impact of drought, in the context of various agronomic practices across a wide range of production environments. Desirable phenological and physiological traits related to yield were identified with RUE having the greatest effect on yield followed by HI rate. Leaf size significantly affected seed yield (p< 0.05) more than phenological phases. The physiological traits were integrated into four ideotype designs applied to two baseline cultivars (PBA Hallmark XT and PBA Jumbo2) providing eight ideotypes. We identified a combination of genetic traits that promises a yield advantage of around 10% against our current cultivars PBA Hallmark XT and PBA Jumbo2. Under drought conditions, our ideotypes achieved 5 to 25% yield advantages without stubble and 20 to 40% yield advantages with stubble residues. This shows the importance of genetic screening under realistic production conditions (e.g., stubble retention in particular environments). Such screening is aided by the employment of biophysical models that incorporate both genetic and agronomic variables that focus on successful traits in combination, to reduce the impact of drought in the development of new cultivars for various environments. Stubble retention was found to be a major agronomic contributor to high yield in water-limiting environments and this contribution declined with increasing growing season rainfall. In mid- and high-rainfall environments, the key drivers of yield were time of sowing, physiological traits and soil type. Overall, the agronomic practices, namely, early sowing, residue retention and narrow row spacing deceased the impact of drought when combined with improved physiological traits of the ideotypes based on long term climate data.