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

Functional Plant Biology

Volume 41 Number 3 2014

Maintenance of green leaf area is important for maximum yield formation and for high grain protein concentration. A high-throughput phenotyping method to identify stay-green and early senescence phenotypes was developed. The findings contribute to a better understanding of senescence processes.

One means to select crops that are adapted to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is to determine which varieties can best convert CO2 into seed yield at higher temperatures.. We did this for rice, and found that although all lines responded with more seed yield as CO2 increased, the weedy line, ‘Stg-S’ increased seed yields even at day/night temperatures up to 33/25°C. Our results suggest that including novel genes from weedy lines could help in adapting crops like rice to future climate change.

Drought-induced tree mortality mechanisms are yet to be fully understood. We found that co-occurring now-dead and surviving Scots pines increased their intrinsic water-use efficiency over time, although the former increased it at significantly lower rates than the latter in the period prior to death. Warmer/drier climatic conditions could increase tree mortality in the Mediterranean: our results provide a possible approach to identify vulnerable pines.

Wheat yields are increasingly limited by drought events occurring at a global scale, making it important to identify drought-tolerance mechanisms. Here we report an investigation into the basis of the exceptional drought tolerance capability exhibited by an elite breeding line (RAC875) that is being used in several international breeding programs. Our data suggests that this line owes its drought tolerance to a water-saving strategy, provided by specific root anatomical and functional features that restrict water loss by transpiration under high evaporative demand.

Drought causes yield loss in sorghum, as in virtually all crops. This research was done to understand water transport in sorghum plants as a mechanism to regulate water loss and to increase yield under drought. Genetic variation for plant water transport properties was found. This variation corresponded to variation in plant water loss under dry-air conditions, indicating that it may be possible to breed sorghum varieties with low water transport properties to increase drought tolerance.

Rapid turfgrass establishment from transplanted sod is economically and aesthetically important. Anchoring of hybrid Cynodon (bermudagrass or couch) sod to underlying soil by new roots was strongly affected by transplantation date in springtime and by soil texture, but not by N-P-K fertilisation; irrigation overcame any effects of dry soil on root elongation rate. This new understanding of root growth by transplanted Cynodon sod can improve turfgrass cultural practice strategies.

Rapid warming in the Arctic is causing cascading changes, many of which influence how carbon is cycled and stored. Photosynthesis and respiration, the leaf-level processes that control the capture and release of CO2, can vary across species and under long-term warming, which is important, considering the warmer tundra of the future. The results present alterations in physiological processes and can inform predictive models of carbon cycling in this region.

High elevation plants show genetically determined adaptations and phenotypically plastic acclimations in their functional traits as a response to environmental conditions. We found that 7 of 14 studied traits that enable Andean Polylepis trees to withstand cold and dry conditions show genetically determined variation among the nine species that were studied. This suggests that these traits have been important targets of selection during the evolution of high-Andean Polylepis species.

The cuticle of a plant has a dual role (prevention or facilitation of fungal invasion) in the process of infection. Changes in chemical composition of wax during fruit development of Pingguoli pear and their role in Alternaria alternata infection were evaluated in this study. Results showed that the infection processes of A. alternata was prevented or stimulated depending on the chemical composition of the wax. These findings may offer new light on the chemical basis for wax involvement in fungal infection.

Two key enzyme DGAT genes for lipid biosynthesis, JcDGAT1 and JcDGAT2, were cloned and characterised from the potential biodiesel plant Jatropha curcas. The functional divergence of JcDGAT1 and JcDGAT2 in lipid biosynthesis was demonstrated by comparing the oil content and fatty acid compositions in both the transgenic yeast and tobacco systems. JcDGAT2 exhibited an obvious linoleic acid substrate preference in both transgenic yeast and tobacco systems.

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