Lysenko’s error about crop growth and development

F.A.J. Harris1,2, H.A. Eagles4,5, J.M. Virgona1,6, P.J. Martin1,3,7, J.R. Condon1, and J.F. Angus1,4

1EH Graham Centre, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia

2Current address, 3former address: NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia

4CSIRO Agriculture and Food, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

5Mailing address: 3 Tacoma Boulevard, Pasadena, SA 5042, Australia

6Current address: Graminus Consulting, 1 Heron Place, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia

7Current address: Howqua Consulting, 48 Fulham Road, Alphington, VIC 3078, Australia


More than 60 years ago, the Ukrainian agronomist Trofin Lysenko asserted that wheat growth was independent of development. Field experiments reported by FAJ Harris and others at this conference disproved this assertion by showing that the VRN1 genes, which control the developmental response to vernalisation, also affect growth. They showed that vegetative growth of wheat genotypes that possess the spring Vrn-B1a allele is 19% faster than genotypes with the winter Vrn-B1v allele. There was no such effect of the VRN1 genes carried on the A or D genomes, or the PPD1 genes. Previous research had cast doubt on the independence of growth and development, but this is the first conclusive evidence from field experiments that refute the supposed independence. The physiological mechanism linking assimilation and development is not clear, but while it is being investigated there is scope for using the result to manipulate vegetative growth. Rapid vegetative growth may be a valuable trait for late-sown crops in dry environments, for dual-purpose cultivars and for suppressing weeds, but a disadvantage where there is a risk of haying off.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

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David Marland Photography Southern Farming Systems Agriculture Victoria

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