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

Adaptation to Water Stress of the Leaf Water Relations of Four Tropical Forage Species

JR Wilson, MM Ludlow, MJ Fisher and E Schulze

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 7(2) 207 - 220
Published: 1980


Three tropical grasses, green panic (Panicum maximum var, trichoglume), spear grass (Heteropogon contortus) and buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and the tropical legume siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum), were grown in plots in a semi-arid field environment. The water relations characteristics of leaves from plants subjected to a soil drying cycle were compared with those of unstressed leaves from plants in irrigated plots. Minimum water potentials attained in the stressed leaves were c. -44, - 38, - 33 and - 13 bar for the four species, respectively.

The grass leaves adjusted osmotically to water stress, apparently through accumulation of solutes, so that there was a decrease in osmotic potential at full turgor (Ψπ100) of 5.5, 3.9 and 7.1 bar, and in water potential at zero turgor (Ψ0) of 8.6, 6.5 and 8.6 bar for green panic, spear grass and buffel respectively. Water stress appeared to increase slightly the proportion of bound water (B) and the bulk modulus of elasticity (ε) of the grass leaves, but it did not alter the relative water content at zero turgor (RWC0) or the ratio of turgid water content to dry weight of the tissue.

The Ψπ100 and Ψ0 of stressed siratro leaves decreased by 2.5-4 bar and 3-5 bar respectively when subjected to soil drying cycles. These changes could be explained by the marked decrease in the ratio of turgid water content to dry weight of the leaf tissue rather than by accumulation of solutes. The values of RWC0 and ε for siratro leaves were not altered by stress but, in contrast to the grasses, B was apparently decreased although the data exhibited high variability.

Adjustments in Ψπ100 and Ψ0 of stressed leaves of buffel grass and siratro were largely lost within 10 days of rewatering.

© CSIRO 1980

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