The biological improvement of fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is hampered by the poor characterization of the phenotype and genotype for crop N response and NUE. In an attempt to identify phenotypic traits for N-response and NUE in the earliest stages of plant growth, we analyzed the N-responsive germination, respiration, urease activities, and root/shoot growth of 21 Indica genotypes of rice (Oryza sativa var. indica). We found that N delays germination from 0 to 12 h in a genotype-dependent and source-dependent manner, especially with urea and nitrate.

The DREB (dehydration-responsive element binding)-type transcription factors are classified into six subgroups, named A-1 to A-6. The members of DREB A-1 and A-2 subgroups have been reported to be involved in response to various abiotic stresses. However, there were only a few genes belonging to A-3 to A-6 subgroups to be reported. In this study, we cloned a DREB A-4 subgroup gene from maize (Zea mays), ZmDREB4.1, and analyzed its characteristics and functions. ZmDREB4.1 was expressed in roots, stems, and leaves at very low levels. It was not induced by any biotic or abiotic treatment.

Drought is one of the major abiotic stresses affecting world agriculture. Breeding drought-resistant crops is one of the most important challenges for plant biologists. PYR1/PYL/RCARs, which encode the abscisic acid (ABA) receptors, play pivotal roles in ABA signaling, but how these genes function in crop drought response remains largely unknown. Here we identified 13 PYL family members in maize (ZmPYL1-13). Changes in expression of these genes under different stresses indicated that ZmPYLs played important roles in responding to multiple abiotic stresses.

Traditional yellow maize though contains high kernel carotenoids, the concentration of provitamin A (proA) is quite low (<2 μg/g), compared to recommended level (15 μg/g). It also possesses poor endosperm protein quality due to low concentration of lysine and tryptophan. Natural variant of crtRB1 (β-carotene hydroxylase) and lcyE (lycopene-ε-cyclase) cause significant enhancement of proA concentration, while recessive allele, opaque2 (o2) enhances the level of these amino acids.

We conducted a synthesis analysis on data from 86 published field experiments conducted from 1903 to 2014 to explore the specific consequences of post-silking N accumulation (PostN) in New Era vs. Old Era hybrids on grain yield (GY) and recovery from plant N stress at flowering (R1 stage). The Old Era encompassed studies using genotypes released before, and including, 1990 and the New Era included all studies using genotypes released from 1991 to 2014.