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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 41(5)

Drought resistance and soil water extraction of a perennial C4 grass: contributions of root and rhizome traits

Yi Zhou A B , Christopher J. Lambrides A C and Shu Fukai A

A The University of Queensland, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Qld 4072, Australia.
B Present address: The University of Adelaide, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, Adelaide, SA 5064, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: chris.lambrides@uq.edu.au

Functional Plant Biology 41(5) 505-519 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP13249
Submitted: 23 August 2013  Accepted: 5 December 2013   Published: 20 January 2014

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Previously, we showed that genotypic differences in soil water extraction were associated with drought response, but we did not study underground root and rhizome characteristics. In this study, we demonstrate a similar relationship between drought resistance and soil water extraction but investigate the role of underground organs. Eighteen bermudagrass genotypes (Cynodon spp.) from four climatic zones were assessed under continuous drought at two locations with contrasting soils and climates. The criterion for drought resistance was the duration required to reach 50% green cover (GC50) after water was withheld. GC50, physiological traits, rhizome dry matter (RhDM), root length density (RLD) and average root diameter (ARD) were determined in both locations; water extraction was measured in one location. Large genotypic variation for drought resistance was observed in both locations, with GC50 being 187–277 days in a clay soil and 15–27 days in a sandy soil. Drought-resistant genotypes had greater soil water extraction and a higher water uptake rate. GC50 was correlated with relative water content (r = 0.76), canopy temperature differential (r = –0.94) and photosynthetic rate (r = 0.87) measured during drought; RhDM (r = 0.78 to ~0.93) before and after drought; and ARD after drought (r = 0.82 to ~0.94); GC50 was not correlated with RLD. Ecotypes collected from the Australian Mediterranean zone had superior drought resistance and were characterised by a large rhizome network. This is the first comprehensive study with perennial C4 grasses describing the association between water extraction, root distribution, rhizomes and drought resistance.

Additional keywords: Bermuda grass, canopy temperature, Cynodon, root length density.


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