The effects of root and shoot characteristics on the lodging resistance of four cultivars of winter wheat were investigated by combining results from a field trial (set up at Manchester University's Experimental Grounds, Jodrell Bank, in mid-September 1991) with morphological and mechanical measurements on their stems and anchorage systems. Cultivars showed contrasting lodging resistance: Widgeon was most susceptible, followed by Galahad, Riband and Hereward which, alone, did not lodge. Lodging resistance was not related to the strength and stiffness of the stems, which were usually adequate to withstand the forces to which they were subjected. Most plants instead failed in their root system which rotated through the soil. Resistance was associated with short and light stems (and hence on the force applied to the plants by wind and gravity) and with high values of the anchorage strength of the root system (and hence on the force resisting lodging). Lodging occurred during grain filling when the ears were heaviest and when the soil was wet. The anchorage strength of a plant depended on two characteristics of the root system: the bending strength and the angle of spread of the basal coronal roots. Plants with stronger, more widely spread coronal roots produced larger soil cones during anchorage failure and resisted larger forces. Future breeding for lodging resistance, therefore, should continue to select for plants with shorter stems and with stiffer, more widely spread, coronal roots.
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