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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology

 

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Development of a diurnal dehydration index for spring barley phenotyping

Pablo Rischbeck A B , Peter Baresel A , Salah Elsayed A , Bodo Mistele A and Urs Schmidhalter A

A Deparment of Plant Sciences, Technische Universität München, Emil-Ramann-Str. 2, D-85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.
B Corresponding author. Email: pablo.rischbeck@wzw.tum.de

Functional Plant Biology - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP14069
Submitted: 28 February 2014  Accepted: 28 May 2014   Published online: 31 July 2014


 
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Abstract

Spectral and thermal assessments may enable the precise, high-throughput and low-cost characterisation of traits linked to drought tolerance. However, spectral and thermal measurements of the canopy water status are influenced by the crops’ soil coverage, the size of the biomass and other properties such as the leaf angle distribution. The aim of this study was to develop a referenced spectral method that would be minimally influenced by potentially perturbing factors for retrieving the water status of differing cultivars. Sixteen spring barley cultivars were grown in field trials under imposed drought stress, natural drought stress and irrigated conditions. The relative leaf water content of barley plants declines diurnally from pre-dawn until the afternoon, and other plant traits such as the biomass change little throughout the day. As an indicator of the current drought stress, pre-dawn and afternoon values of the relative leaf water content were assessed spectrally. Diurnal changes in reflectance are only slightly influenced by other perturbing factors. A new spectral index (diurnal dehydration index) was developed by using the wavelengths 730 and 457 nm collected from an active spectrometer. This index allowed the differentiation of the drought tolerance of barley plants. The diurnal dehydration index was significantly related to final biomass, grain yield and harvest index and significantly different between cultivars. Compared with other indices, the diurnal dehydration index offered a higher stability in retrieving the water status of barley plants. Due to its diurnal assessment, the index was barely influenced by the differences in cultivars biomass at the time of measurement. It may represent a valuable tool for assessing the water status or drought tolerance in breeding nurseries.

Additional keywords: abiotic stress, drought tolerance, phenomics, high throughput, precision phenotyping, spectroscopy.


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