Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Measuring dehydration tolerance in pasture grasses to improve drought survival

M. R. Norton A C D E , the late F. Lelièvre B and F. Volaire B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

B Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, CEFE, UMR 5175 CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France.

C School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, An alliance between NSW DPI and Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: mark.norton@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Crop and Pasture Science 65(8) 828-840 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP14054
Submitted: 6 February 2014  Accepted: 11 June 2014   Published: 1 August 2014

Abstract

Cool-season grasses, both annual and perennial, typically employ the strategies of dehydration avoidance and dehydration tolerance to help them to survive extended periods of low soil moisture. Summer dormancy is an extra trait employed by perennial grasses particularly adapted to regions experiencing extended hot, dry summers. Of the three strategies, it appears that least is known about dehydration tolerance. Using and extending a methodology developed for cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.), this study compared a range of cultivars of cocksfoot, tall fescue and phalaris differing in expression of summer dormancy. Both inter- and intra-specific variation in dehydration tolerance was observed, with cocksfoot expressing the trait strongly, whereas it was least evident in phalaris. The trait was more strongly evident in cultivars originating in drier environments, and the ability to express dehydration tolerance appeared to be independent of summer dormancy. It has been confirmed that dehydration tolerance is a powerful drought-survival trait, one that warrants increasing attention in plant breeding programs for drying environments.

Additional keywords: adaptation, Dactylis glomerata, dehydration avoidance, Festuca arundinacea, moisture deficit, Phalaris aquatica, summer dormancy, tolerance index.


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