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Water withholding contributes to winter hardiness in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)

Water withholding contributes to winter hardiness in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)

European Journal of Horticultural Science 82(1): 31-37

ISSN/ISBN: 1611-4426

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is an important turf and forage species in mild temperate regions. In cold regions, it is vulnerable to winter kill. The objective of this study was to investigate possible associations between cold tolerance and morphological traits that regulate water movement in perennial ryegrass. Cultivars 'Uno', 'Brightstar SLT', 'Fiesta', 'Evening Shade', 'NK-200', and 'Linn', representing different levels of cold tolerance and winter hardiness, were used in the study. Previously reported cold tolerant cultivars, 'Uno' and 'Brightstar SLT', showed smaller but higher density of stomata than cold sensitive cultivars such as 'Linn' and 'NK-200'. In addition, cold tolerant cultivars had either higher density of short cells or higher density of hairs in the epidermis compared to the cold sensitive cultivars. Water wetting angles on the upper epidermis also indicated that 'Uno' had a better protection from water loss than cold sensitive cultivars, especially 'Linn'. The water loss rate (% per day) was significantly higher for 'Linn' than 'Uno', which were 3.39 and 2.27, respectively. Simulated wind desiccation combined with freezing at -10 degrees C after cold acclimation further showed that stronger water withholding ability contributed to the increased freezing tolerance. The results suggest that including water conserving morphologies in the selection process may help breeding for freeze tolerant perennial ryegrass.

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