Wheat and drought stress


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Warm winter, dry soil hit rabi crops

Adaptation to and recovery from drought stress at vegetative stages in wheat (Triticum aestivum) cultivars

Muhammad Abid A B , Zhongwei Tian A , Syed Tahir Ata-Ul-Karim A , Feng Wang A , Yang LiuA , Rizwan Zahoor A , Dong Jiang A and Tingbo Dai A C

A Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology, Ecology and Production Management, National Engineering and Technology Center for Information Agriculture, Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Information Agriculture, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, Jiangsu Province, 210 095, PR China.

B Department of Soil Conservation, Soon Valley, Khushab 41 000, Punjab, Pakistan.

Published in Functional Plant Biology



Studying plants’ capability to adapt and recover from drought stress is essential because of the ever-changing nature of drought events. To evaluate the genotypically variable morpho-physiological adaptations to drought stress and recovery after re-watering, two wheat cultivars (Luhan-7 and Yangmai-16) were pot-cultured under three levels of water stress: severe (35–40% field capacity, FC) and moderate water deficits (55–60% FC) and well-watered conditions.

Drought stress was applied at tillering (Feekes 2 stage) and jointing (Feekes 6 stage), respectively, followed by re-watering, and we observed changes in leaf characteristics, growth and physiological activities during water stress and rewatering periods as well as final grain yield traits at maturity.

Results showed that drought stress adaptability associated with reduced leaf area, higher leaf thickness, chlorophyll, leaf dry matter and maintenance of leaf water potential were more strongly pronounced in Luhan-7 than in Yangmai-16. Under moderate stress both cultivars exhibited a small decrease in leaf gas-exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence activities, followed by rapid recovery. Under severe drought stress, Yangmai-16 displayed relatively less adaptability to drought, with a slower recovery after re-watering and a greater decrease in grain yield.

It was concluded that even though crop growth rate completely recovered after re-watering, the final dry matter and grain yield outcomes were affected by pre-drought stress, and were dependant on the drought intensity, adaptability and recovery differences of the cultivars and growth stage. It was also concluded that genotypic variations in adaptability and recovery from drought stress are the indicators of drought tolerance and grain yield sustainability in wheat.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.