Adaptation to high temperature mitigates the impact of water deficit during combined heat and drought stress in C3 sunflower and C4 maize varieties with contrasting drought tolerance
Killi, D.; Bussotti, F.; Raschi, A.; Haworth, M.
Physiologia Plantarum 159(2): 130-147
Heat and drought stress frequently occur together, however, their impact on plant growth and photosynthesis (PN ) is unclear. The frequency, duration and severity of heat and drought stress events are predicted to increase in the future, having severe implications for agricultural productivity and food security. To assess the impact on plant gas exchange, physiology and morphology we grew drought tolerant and sensitive varieties of C3 sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and C4 maize (Zea mays) under conditions of elevated temperature for 4 weeks prior to the imposition of water deficit. The negative impact of temperature on PN was most apparent in sunflower. The drought tolerant sunflower retained ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) activity under heat stress to a greater extent than its drought sensitive counterpart. Maize exhibited no varietal difference in response to increased temperature. In contrast to previous studies, where a sudden rise in temperature induced an increase in stomatal conductance (Gs ), we observed no change or a reduction in Gs with elevated temperature, which alongside lower leaf area mitigated the impact of drought at the higher temperature. The drought tolerant sunflower and maize varieties exhibited greater investment in root-systems, allowing greater uptake of the available soil water. Elevated temperatures associated with heat-waves will have profound negative impacts on crop growth in both sunflower and maize, but the deleterious effect on PN was less apparent in the drought tolerant sunflower and both maize varieties. As C4 plants generally exhibit water use efficiency (WUE) and resistance to heat stress, selection on the basis of tolerance to heat and drought stress would be more beneficial to the yields of C3 crops cultivated in drought prone semi-arid regions.