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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

Genotypic differences in deep water extraction associated with drought tolerance in wheat

Eric Ober, Peter Werner, Edward Flatman, Bill Angus, Peter Jack, Lucy Smith-Reeve, Chris Tapsell


The ability of roots to extract soil moisture is critical for maintaining yields during drought. However, the extent of genotypic variation for rooting depth and drought tolerance in Northern European wheat germplasm is not known. The objectives were to measure genotypic differences in root activity, test relationships between water use and yield, examine trade-offs between yield potential and investment of biomass in deep roots and identify genotypes that contrast in deep root activity. A diverse set of 21 wheat genotypes was evaluated under irrigated and managed drought conditions in the field. Root activity was inferred from patterns of water extraction from the soil profile. Genotypes were equally capable of exploiting soil moisture in upper layers, but there were significant genotypic differences in rates of post-anthesis water uptake in deeper soil layers. For example, across the three years of the study, the variety Xi19 showed consistently deeper root activity than the variety Spark; Xi19 also showed greater drought tolerance than Spark. The correlations between deep water use and yield potential were not significant or only weakly negative. With appropriate screening tools, selection for genotypes that can better mine deep soil water should improve yield stability in variable rainfall environments.

FP14094  Accepted 08 June 2014
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