The timing of plant reproduction has a large impact on yield in crop plants. Reproductive development in temperate cereals comprises two major developmental transitions. During spikelet initiation, the identity of the shoot meristem switches from the vegetative to the reproductive stage and spikelet primordia are formed on the apex. Subsequently, floral morphogenesis is initiated, a process strongly affected by environmental variation. Recent studies in cereal grasses have suggested that this later phase of inflorescence development controls floret survival and abortion, and is therefore crucial for yield. Here, we provide a synthesis of the early morphological and the more recent genetic studies on shoot development in wheat and barley. The review explores how photoperiod, abiotic stress, and nutrient signalling interact with shoot development, and pinpoints genetic factors that mediate development in response to these environmental cues. We anticipate that research in these areas will be important in understanding adaptation of cereal grasses to changing climate conditions.
Keywords: Abiotic stress; barley; floral transition; floret development; nutrient; photoperiod; wheat..
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