Changes in Carbon Partitioning and Accumulation Patterns during Drought and Recovery for Colonial Bentgrass, Creeping Bentgrass, and Velvet Bentgrass

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Efficient carbon distribution and utilization may enhance drought survival and recovery ability for perennial grasses. The objectives of this study were to examine changes in carbon partitioning and carbohydrate accumulation patterns in shoots and roots of colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris L.), creeping bentgrass (A. stolonifera L.), and velvet bentgrass (A. canina L.) in response to drought and re-watering following drought, and to determine whether species variation in drought tolerance and recuperative potential is related to differences in the patterns of carbon partitioning and accumulation. The experiment consisted of three treatments: 1) well-watered control; 2) drought, irrigation completely withheld for 18 days; and 3) drought recovery, a group of drought-stressed plants were re-watered at the end of the drought treatment (18 days). Drought tolerance and recuperative ability of three species was evaluated by measuring turf quality and leaf relative water content. These parameters indicated that velvet bentgrass was most drought tolerant while colonial bentgrass had highest recuperative ability among the three species. Plants were labeled with 14CO2 to determine carbon partitioning to shoots and roots. Carbohydrate accumulation was assessed by total nonstructural carbohydrate (TNC) content. The proportion of newly photosynthesized 14C partitioned to roots increased at 12 days of drought compared to the pre-stress level, to a greater extent for velvet bentgrass (45%) than for colonial bentgrass (35%) and creeping bentgrass (30%). In general, the proportion of 14C was highest in roots, intermediate in stems, and lowest in leaves at 12 days of drought treatment for all three bentgrass species. As drought duration and severity increased (18 days), 14C partitioning increased more in leaves and stems relative to that in roots for all three species. Stem TNC content was significantly greater for drought-stressed plants of colonial bentgrass and velvet bentgrass compared to their respective well-watered control plants, whereas no differences in stem TNC content were observed between drought-stressed and well-watered creeping bentgrass. Our results suggest that increased carbon partitioning to roots during initial drought stress represented an adaptive response of bentgrass species to short-term drought stress, and increased carbon partitioning and carbohydrate accumulation in stems during prolonged period of drought stress could be beneficial for rapid recovery of turf growth and water status upon re-watering.

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