Do nitrogen and zinc application alleviate the adverse effect of heat stress on wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)?
Late-season heat stress (LSH) is a limiting factor for wheat production. Besides, low zinc and poor protein diet usually is a problem in low-income countries. The primary calorie source in such countries is prepared from bread. This study aims to mitigate heat stress by zinc and nitrogen application and improve zinc and protein content in wheat grain. We did the field experiments as a split-split-plot based on a randomized complete block design with four replications to assess zinc and nitrogen’s possible mitigation effect on LSH and protein and zinc enrichment of wheat grain during two years. Factors included LSH by delay in planting date (optimum, late, and very late) as the main plot, nitrogen (0, 75, 150, and 225 kg ha–1) in subplots, and zinc (0, 10, and 20 kg ha–1) as sub-subplots. We measured yield, yield components, physiological traits, zinc, and protein contents in the grain. Results showed that the highest relative water content and cell-membrane thermal stability were attained at the optimum planting date, 150 kg N ha–1 and 20 kg Zn ha–1. The maximum chlorophyll a and carotenoids contents in wheat cells were recorded in the optimum planting date, 225 kg N ha–1, and 20 kg Zn ha–1. Heat stress reduced the grain yield. In the second year of the experiment, the grain number per unit area was more than that of the first year; however, the highest grain yield was achieved in the first year owing to the higher mean grain weight. Nitrogen application decreased the adverse effects of heat stress on grain yield by increasing the grain number. Zinc application diminished the adverse effects of heat stress by increasing the mean grain weight. The adverse impact of the LSH on grain yield was more than that of biological yield. Heat stress reduced the hectolitre weight and zinc content of the grain. Meanwhile, it increased grain protein. In general, under LSH, the application of 225 kg N ha–1 and 20 kg Zn ha–1 can reduce the adverse effects of heat on the grain quality and quantity.
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