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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 63(1)

A modelling analysis to identify plant traits for enhanced water-use efficiency of pasture

T. A. White A B C and V. O. Snow A

A AgResearch, Private Bag 4749, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand.
B Kansas State University, 3706 Throckmorton Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.
C Corresponding author. Email: todd1@ksu.edu

Crop and Pasture Science 63(1) 63-76 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/CP11250
Submitted: 7 September 2011  Accepted: 15 February 2012   Published: 13 March 2012

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As pressure on water resources increases, pasture species that express traits for improved water-use efficiency (WUE) while maintaining desirable agronomic and production characteristics are needed. The objective of this study was to use a biophysical modelling analysis to test the sensitivity of key pasture plant functional traits on WUE. Biomass production and water use of monocultures of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) with varying plant traits were determined under a range of soil, climate, and irrigation conditions. Five plant traits (temperature sensitivity, light extinction, root depth, root partitioning, and sensitivity to water stress) were investigated. Parameters related to root systems had the greatest impact across all environments on harvestable dry matter and WUE. In particular, root depth and root partitioning showed potential for improving both harvestable yield and WUE. These traits merit further attention under more realistic soil conditions, simultaneously taking into consideration other desirable traits such as nutrient capture and agronomic suitability for grazed systems.

Additional keywords: APSIM, biophysical modelling, drainage, irrigation, pastoral systems.


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