Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Soil moisture heterogeneity during deficit irrigation alters root-to-shoot signalling of abscisic acid

Ian C. Dodd
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

The Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, LA1 4YQ, UK. Email: I.Dodd@lancaster.ac.uk

Functional Plant Biology 34(5) 439-448 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP07009
Submitted: 16 January 2007  Accepted: 6 March 2007   Published: 17 May 2007

Abstract

The effects of different irrigation techniques on leaf xylem ABA concentration ([X-ABA]leaf) were compared in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). During partial rootzone drying (PRD), water was distributed unevenly to the root system such that part was irrigated while the remainder was allowed to dry the soil. During conventional deficit irrigation (DI), plants received the same volume of water as PRD plants, but water was distributed evenly to the entire root system. When the plant root system was allowed to explore two separate soil compartments, DI plants had a higher [X-ABA]leaf than PRD plants with moderate soil drying, but PRD plants had a higher [X-ABA]leaf than DI plants as the soil dried further. The difference in [X-ABA]leaf between the two sets of plants was not because of differences in either whole pot soil water content (θpot) or leaf water potential (Ψleaf). To investigate the contribution of different parts of the root system to [X-ABA]leaf, individual shoots were grafted onto the root systems of two plants grown in two separate pots, so that the graft union had the appearance of an inverted ‘Y’. After sap collection from detached leaves, removal of the shoot below the graft union allowed sap collection from each root system. Again, DI plants had a higher [X-ABA]leaf than PRD plants when the soil was relatively wet, but the opposite occurred as the soil dried. Root xylem ABA concentration ([X-ABA]root) increased exponentially as soil water content (θ) declined. In DI plants, [X-ABA]root from either pot (or the arithmetic mean of [X-ABA]root) accounted for a similar amount of the variation in [X-ABA]leaf. In PRD plants, [X-ABA]root from the watered side underestimated [X-ABA]leaf, whereas [X-ABA]root from the dry side overestimated [X-ABA]leaf. The arithmetic mean of [X-ABA]root best explained the variation in [X-ABA]leaf, implying continued sap flow from the dry part of the root system (Jdry) at soil water potentials (Ψsoil) at which Jdry had ceased in previous studies of PRD plants (Yao et al. 2001). Evaluating the relationship between Jdry and Ψsoil may assist in maintaining export of ABA (and other growth regulators) from the drying part of the root system, to achieve desirable horticultural outcomes during PRD.

Additional keywords: ABA signalling, grafting, irrigation scheduling, partial rootzone drying, tomato, water use.


Acknowledgements

I thank DEFRA (Contract HH3609STX) for support of this work, Phil Smith and Maureen Harrison for construction of the split pots and plant care respectively, and Bill Davies for his encouragement during the course of this study.


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