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Tradeoff between Biomass and Flavonoid Accumulation in White Clover Reflects Contrasting Plant Strategies

By Rainer W. Hofmann and M. Z. Zulfiqhar Jahufer


An outdoor study was conducted to examine relationships between plant productivity and stress-protective phenolic plant metabolites. Twenty-two populations of the pasture legume white clover were grown for 4½ months during spring and summer in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The major phenolic compounds identified and quantified by HPLC analysis were glycosides of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Multivariate analysis revealed a trade-off between flavonoid accumulation and plant productivity attributes. White clover populations with high biomass production, large leaves and thick tap roots showed low levels of quercetin glycoside accumulation and low quercetin:kaempferol ratios, while the opposite was true for less productive populations. The latter included stress-resistant ecotypes from Turkey and China, and the analysis also identified highly significant positive relationships of quercetin glycoside accumulation with plant morphology (root:shoot ratio). Importantly, a high degree of genetic variation was detected for most of the measured traits. These findings suggest merit for considering flavonoids such as quercetin as potential selection criteria in the genetic improvement of white clover and other crops

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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