Relationship of source and sink in determining kernel composition of maize

Juliann R. Seebauer, George W. Singletary, Paulette M. Krumpelman, Matías L. Ruffo, Frederick E. Below

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relative role of the maternal source and the filial sink in controlling the composition of maize (Zea mays L.) kernels is unclear and may be influenced by the genotype and the N supply. The objective of this study was to determine the influence of assimilate supply from the vegetative source and utilization of assimilates by the grain sink on the final composition of maize kernels. Intermated B73×Mo17 recombinant inbred lines (IBM RILs) which displayed contrasting concentrations of endosperm starch were grown in the field with deficient or sufficient N, and the source supply altered by ear truncation (45% reduction) at 15 d after pollination (DAP). The assimilate supply into the kernels was determined at 19 DAP using the agar trap technique, and the final kernel composition was measured. The influence of N supply and kernel ear position on final kernel composition was also determined for a commercial hybrid. Concentrations of kernel protein and starch could be altered by genotype or the N supply, but remained fairly constant along the length of the ear. Ear truncation also produced a range of variation in endosperm starch and protein concentrations. The C/N ratio of the assimilate supply at 19 DAP was directly related to the final kernel composition, with an inverse relationship between the concentrations of starch and protein in the mature endosperm. The accumulation of kernel starch and protein in maize is uniform along the ear, yet adaptable within genotypic limits, suggesting that kernel composition is source limited in maize.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-519
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • C/N
  • Carbon
  • Grain
  • Maternal
  • Nitrogen
  • Protein
  • Sink
  • Source
  • Starch
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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