Leaf length is a key factor in the economic value of different grass species and cultivars in forage production. It is also important for the survival of individual plants within a sward. The objective of this paper is to discuss the basis of within-species variation in leaf length. Selection for leaf length has been highly efficient, with moderate to high narrow sense heritability. Nevertheless, the genetic regulation of leaf length is complex because it involves many genes with small individual effects. This could explain the low stability of QTL found in different studies. Leaf length has a strong response to environmental conditions. However, when significant genotype × environment interactions have been identified, their effects have been smaller than the main effects. Recent modelling-based research suggests that many of the reported environmental effects on leaf length and genotype × environment interactions could be biased. Indeed, it has been shown that leaf length is an emergent property strongly affected by the architectural state of the plant during significant periods prior to leaf emergence. This approach could lead to improved understanding of the factors affecting leaf length, as well as better estimates of the main genetic effects.
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