The rate of leaf appearance of barley varies substantially with time of sowing. This variation has been related to both the length and the rate of change of photoperiod at the time of plant emergence. An outdoor pot experiment was conducted to test if rate of change of photoperiod directly affects phasic development and rate of leaf emergence of spring barley. Two photoperiod-sensitive cultivars (Bandulla and Galleon) were subjected to five photoperiod regimes: two constant photoperiods, of 14 and 15·5 h, and three different rates of change of photoperiod of c. 2, 9 and 13 min/day from seedling emergence to awn initiation.
Photoperiod treatments significantly affected the duration from seedling emergence to awn initiation in both cultivars. Rate of change of photoperiod did not affect the rate of development towards awn initiation independently of the absolute daylength it produced. Although Bandulla had a longer duration than Galleon at any photoperiod regime, the cultivars did not vary in their sensitivity to photoperiod. When this phase was divided into the leaf initiation (LI) and spikelet initiation (SI) phases, it was evident that the sensitivity to photoperiod was not constant, being in general higher during the SI than during the LI phase. However, the magnitude of the change in sensitivity was cultivar-dependent, indicating that sensitivity to photoperiod during the different phases could be under independent genetic control.
Final numbers of primordia (leaves together with maximum spikelet number) were negatively affected by increasing photoperiods, but once again, there was no evidence of any effect of the rate of change of photoperiod which was independent of the average photoperiod. Both cultivars showed similar sensitivities for final leaf number but maximum spikelet number was more sensitive to photoperiod in Galleon than in Bandulla.
Highly significant linear relationships between leaf number and thermal time were found for all combinations of cultivars and photoperiod regimes (r2 > 0·98). The rate of leaf appearance (RLA) was similar for both cultivars (c. 0·0185 leaves/°Cd) and did not alter during plant development or in response to the change in photoperiod at awn initiation. The range in RLA was greater for Galleon (0·0170–0·0205 leaves/°Cd) than for Bandulla (0·0173–0·0186 leaves/°Cd). Neither of these cultivars exhibited a significant relationship between rate of leaf emergence and photoperiod or rate of change of photoperiod. The lack of significant relationships between RLA and length or rate of change of photoperiod is in contrast with previous reports using time of sowing as a main treatment.