Wheat plants (cv. Gabo) otherwise grown at 20°C were subjected to a temperature of 30°C for 3 days at the onset of meiosis in the anthers. Control plants were maintained at 20°C throughout development. Serial sections through the heat-stressed ovaries just prior to anthesis showed that a third contained abnormal embryo sacs. Abnormalities ranged from the complete absence of an embryo sac accompanied by reduced nucellus development, to small embryo sacs that contained the full complement of cells. No abnormalities were observed in control ovaries.
Following pollination with fertile pollen, heat-stressed stigmas had similar numbers of germinated pollen grains to non-stressed controls but there were fewer tubes reaching the ovary. In 7% of the stressed pistils, no pollen tube reached the ovary. Callose was deposited in some of the inhibited pollen grains and tubes that showed abnormal growth.
It is concluded that heat stress during meiosis in wheat can reduce yield by causing abnormal ovary development, which results in reduced pollen tube growth and seed set.