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Hui-lian Xu, Laurent Gauthier, and André Gosselin

Tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Capello) were grown in peat bags, rockwool slabs, and NFT in a greenhouse to examine the effects of nutrient solution electrical conductivity (EC) and potential evapotranspiration (PET)-dependent EC variation on plant water relations. Peat bags were irrigated by a PET-dependent irrigation system. EC was varied from 1 to 4 mS·cm-1 according to PET under –5 and –9 kPa of substrate water potential setpoints (SWPS). The plants in rockwool and NFT were treated with ECs of 2.5, 4, and 5.5 mS·cm-1. Peat bags and rockwool slabs were overwatered once a week to wash out the accumulated salts. Leaf water potential (ψ1) and relative water content (θ) were measured before and after plants were overwatered. Turgor (P) and osmotic π potentials were estimated from the pressure-volume method. Before plants were overwatered, ψ1 was significantly lower in the plants with high EC and low SWPS treatments and also lower in variable EC-treated plants, but P maintained close to the control value. After plants were overwatered, ψ1 recovered close to the control level and P became higher because of the lower π in the treatments of high EC, variable EC, and/or low SWPS. At a given ψ1 the plants with high EC, variable EC, and/or low SWPS maintained higher θ. The analysis of the pressure-volume curve showed that the leaves treated with high EC, variable EC, and/or low SWPS had higher turgid water content, higher symplasmic (osmotically active) water content, lower apoplasmic (osmotically inactive) water content, and lower θ point of zero turgor (incipient plasmolysis). Maintenance of P after overwatering was directly proportional to photosynthetic capacity. We suggest that osmotic adjustment occurs in response to high EC, low SWPS, or both and that overwatering substrates and varying EC can not only avoid salinity stress, but also improve turgor maintenance.

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Zhaolong Wang and Bingru Huang

Drought is a major limiting factor for turfgrass growth. Understanding genetic variations in physiological responses of turfgrass to drought stress would facilitate breeding and management programs to improve drought resistance. This study was designed to evaluate responses of abscisic acid (ABA) accumulation, water relations, and gas exchange to drought stress in four Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) cultivars differing in drought resistance. Plants of `Midnight' and `A82-204' (drought resistant) and `Brilliant' and `RSP' (drought susceptible) were grown under well-watered (control) or drought stress conditions for 25 days in growth chambers. Turf quality, leaf water potential (Ψleaf), relative water content (RWC), leaf net photosynthesis rate (Pn), and stomatal conductance (gs) declined, while electrolyte leakage (EL) increased during drought progression in all cultivars. The magnitudes of the change in these parameters were greater for `RSP' and `Brilliant' than for `Midnight' and `A82-204'. Leaf ABA content in `RSP' and `Brilliant' increased sharply after 2 days of stress to as much as 34 times the control level at 10 days of drought. Leaf ABA content in `Midnight' and `A82-204' also increased with drought, but to a lesser extent than in the other two cultivars. Leaf ABA level was negatively correlated with Ψleaf and gs. `A82-204' had a significantly lower ABA accumulation rate with changes in Ψleaf during drought compared to `Midnight', `RSP' and `Brilliant'; however, no differences in ABA accumulation rate were detected among the latter three cultivars. In addition, leaf gs was more sensitive to changes in ABA accumulation in `Midnight' and `A82-204' than in `RSP' and `Brilliant'. These results demonstrated that drought tolerant cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass were characterized by lower ABA accumulation and less severe decline in Ψleaf, Pn, gs, and turf quality during drought stress than drought sensitive cultivars. Drought tolerance of Kentucky bluegrass could be related to sensitivity of stomata to endogenous accumulation of ABA under drought stress conditions.

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Zhaolong Wang, Bingru Huang, and Qingzhang Xu

Abscisic acid (ABA) is an important hormone regulating plant response to drought stress. The objective of this study was to investigate effects of exogenous ABA application on turf performance and physiological activities of kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) in response to drought stress. Plants of two kentucky bluegrass cultivars, `Brilliant' (drought susceptible) and `Midnight' (drought tolerant), were treated with ABA (100 μm) or water by foliar application and then grown under drought stress (no irrigation) or well-watered (irrigation on alternate days) conditions in a growth chamber. The two cultivars responded similarly to ABA application under both watering regimes. Foliar application of ABA had no effects on turf quality or physiological parameters under well-watered conditions. ABA application, however, helped maintain higher turf quality and delayed the quality decline during drought stress, compared to the untreated control. ABA-treated plants exposed to drought stress had higher cell membrane stability, as indicated by less electrolyte leakage of leaves, and higher photochemical efficiency, expressed as Fv/Fm, compared to untreated plants. Leaf water potential was not significantly affected, whereas leaf turgor pressure increased with ABA application after 9 and 12 d of drought. Osmotic adjustment increased with ABA application, and was sustained for a longer period of drought in `Midnight' than in `Brilliant'. The results suggested that exogenous ABA application improved turf performance during drought in both drought-sensitive and tolerant cultivars of kentucky bluegrass. This positive effect of ABA could be related to increased osmotic adjustment, cell turgor maintenance, and reduced damage to cell membranes and the photosynthetic system.

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T.M. Mills, M.H. Behboudian, and B.E. Clothier

Three-year-old `Braeburn' apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) on MM106 rootstock were studied in a glasshouse to assess the effects of deficit irrigation on fruit growth, water relations, composition, and the vegetative growth of the trees. Trees were assigned to one of three treatments. The control (C) was fully watered. The first deficit treatment (D1) was deficit-irrigated from 55 days after full bloom (DAFB) until final harvest at 183 DAFB. The second deficit treatment (D2) was deficit-irrigated from 105 to 183 DAFB. Compared to C, the D1 and D2 trees developed a lower photosynthetic rate, leaf water potential (Ψl), and stomatal conductance (gs) during the stress period. Trunk-circumference growth was reduced in both D1 and D2 trees, but leaf area and shoot length were reduced in D1 only. Total soluble solids increased in both D1 and D2 fruit. Fructose, sorbitol, and total soluble sugar concentrations were higher in D1 fruit than in C and D2. Titratable acidity and K+ levels were higher in D1 fruit than C and D2. For D1, lowering of fruit water potential (Ψw) was accompanied by a decrease in osmotic potential (Ψs), and therefore turgor potential (Ψp) was maintained throughout the sampling period. Regardless of fruit turgor maintenance, the weight of D1 fruit was reduced from 135 DAFB. Weight, sugar concentration, and water relations of D2 fruit were not affected by deficit irrigation. This indicates that fruit water relations and sugar concentration are modified if water deficit is imposed from early in the season. However, if water deficit is imposed later in the season it has less impact on the composition and water relations of the fruit.

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Jason J. Griffin

Common sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall) selections suffer from prolonged drought and constant wind on the southern Great Plains. Nonirrigated plants often have scorched and torn leaves as a result of these environmental stresses. In field studies, a sugar maple ecotype native to western Oklahoma (known as `Caddo' maple) has shown improved tolerance to drought and leaf tatter. A study to examine drought tolerance of seedling `Caddo' maple compared to typical seedling sugar maple was established at the John C. Pair Horticultural Center. One seedling of each type was planted in a single 38-L container. Containers were placed on a greenhouse bench, and once acclimated, irrigation was withheld until predawn leaf water potential indicated a substrate water potential of –1.5 MPa. Containers were weighed, and seedlings were maintained in a prolonged drought condition for 3 weeks by adding water each morning to return the container to the original weight. After 3 weeks, photosynthetic temperature response curves were generated for the drought-stressed and the irrigated control plants. Osmotic potential of expressed sap was also measured on rehydrated leaves. The main effects of species, irrigation, and temperature were all significant. `Caddo' maples were able to maintain a higher rate of net photosynthesis than the typical seedlings when drought stressed and as temperature increased. The optimum temperature for photosynthesis did not significantly differ among treatments (36 °C), whereas the maximum rate of photosynthesis was significantly greater for the `Caddo' maples (41 μmol·m-2·s-1) than the typical sugar maples (16 μmol·m-2·s-1).

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John E. Jordan, Richard H. White, James C. Thomas, Trent C. Hale, and Donald M. Vietor

Proper water management is a major responsibility of managers of creeping bentgrass grown on putting greens in the hot and humid southern states. The combination of shallow root systems, sand-based root zones, high temperatures, and high evaporative demands frequently results in severe drought stress on bentgrass (Agrostis palustris Huds.) greens. This study was initiated to determine the effects of irrigation frequency on creeping bentgrass turgor pressure and on the O2 and CO2 concentrations in a sand-based root zone mixture. In total, 81 plots, 1.5 × 1.5 m each, were established on a USGA-type root zone mixture and organized into 9 groups of 9 plots each. Each group could be irrigated individually. One plot in each group was planted to either `A-4', `Crenshaw', `Mariner', `L-93', or `Penncross' creeping bentgrass. Irrigation frequency treatments of 1-, 2-, and 4-day replacement of historical PET were imposed on three groups each. After establishment, measurements of the leaf water potential, osmotic potential, soil oxygen concentration, and soil carbon dioxide concentrations were made over a 1- to 2-year period. Bentgrass irrigated every 1 or 2 days had significantly (P = 0.05) greater turgor pressures at 0600 hr as compared to turf irrigated every 4 days in 1997. No differences were seen in 1998 due to drier environmental conditions. Concentrations of O2 and CO2 in the soil air remained in the optimal range for all treatments, indicating that lack of O2 in the root zone as a result of frequent irrigation may not be the primary cause for reduced rooting depth of bentgrass grown on highly permeable sand-based root zone mixtures.

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Valerie M. Jonas and Kimberly A. Williams

A series of experiments were conducted to determine the ranges of irrigation frequency and N and P fertilization regimes that produce ivy geranium (Pelargonium peltatum L.) plants of optimum commercial quality. Two cultivars, `Sybil Holmes' and `Amethyst', were grown. Data collected included fresh and dry weights, ratings, leaf area, height, width, ratings, and nutrient tissue content. Individual pots were weighed daily and irrigated when weight of pots dropped by 15%, 30%, 45%, or 60% of container capacity (CC). Leaf water potential was measured using a pressure chamber. At both mid and end of crop, plants irrigated when pot weight dropped by 30% of CC were under least water stress (e.g., water potential of –7.0 to –4.7 MPa). Irrigation frequencies at 15%, 45%, or 60% of CC had similar water potentials (e.g., –9.9 to –9.1 MPa). At 15%, a plausible explanation of the stress is that oxygen was limiting in the root zone due to water-logging; at 45% and 60%, water was the limiting factor. Single factor experiments with N at five concentrations ranging from 2 to 32 mm and P at five concentrations ranging from 0.08 to 2.56 mm were conducted. Quadratic equations were fit to curves of growth responses plotted against concentration of N or P applied. As an example of results, N fertilizer rates of 16 and 32 mm for `Amethyst' resulted in similar, commercially acceptable dry weights (37g), but different N tissue concentrations of 3.4% and 3.9% respectively. For `Sybil Holmes', N fertilizer rates of 10 and 26 mm resulted in similar dry weights (21g) but different tissue concentrations of 2.8% and 3.4%, respectively.

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James A. Zwack, William R. Graves, and Alden M. Townsend

Little is known about drought stress resistance of Freeman maples (Acer ×freemanii E. Murray), which are hybrids of red maples (A. rubrum L.) and silver maples (A. saccharinum L.). The objective of our study was to measure plant growth and leaf water relations of `D.T.R. 102' (Autumn Fantasy), `Celzam' (Celebration), and `Marmo' Freeman maples subjected to drought. Plants grown from rooted cuttings were subjected to four consecutive cycles of water deficit followed by irrigation to container capacity. Average stomatal conductance at container capacity for all cultivars was 255 mmol·s-1·m-2 in the first drought cycle and 43 mmol·s-1·m-2 during the fourth drought cycle. Predawn and midmorning leaf water potentials of droughted plants at the end of the fourth drought cycle were 1.16 and 0.82 MPa more negative than respective values for control plants. Osmotic potential of leaves at full turgor was -1.05 MPa for controls and -1.29 MPa for droughted plants, indicating an osmotic adjustment of 0.24 MPa. Root and shoot dry mass and leaf area were reduced similarly by drought for all cultivars, while Celebration exhibited the least stem elongation. `Marmo' treated with drought had the lowest root-to-shoot ratio and the greatest ratio of leaf surface area to root dry mass. Autumn Fantasy had the lowest ratio of leaf area to stem xylem diameter. Specific leaf mass of drought-stressed Autumn Fantasy was 1.89 mg·cm-2 greater than that of corresponding controls, whereas specific masses of Celebration and `Marmo' leaves were not affected by drought. Leaf thickness was similar among cultivars, but leaves of droughted plants were 9.6 μm thicker than leaves of controls. This initial characterization of responses to drought illustrates variation among Freeman maples and suggests that breeding and selection programs might produce superior genotypes for water-deficient sites in the landscape.

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Krishna S. Nemali and Marc W. van Iersel

Optimal substrate volumetric water content (θ) and drought tolerance of impatiens, petunia, salvia, and vinca were investigated by growing plants under four constant levels of θ (0.09, 0.15, 0.22, and 0.32 m3·m-3). Gas exchange, quantum efficiency (ΦPSII), electron transport rate (ETR), non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), and leaf water potential (ϒ) were measured for all species, and response of photosynthesis (Pn) to internal CO2 concentration (Ci) was studied in petunia and salvia. Leaf photosynthesis (Pmax) was highest at a θ of 0.22 m3·m-3 for all species and did not differ between a θ of 0.15 and 0.22 m3·m-3 for vinca and petunia. The Pn-Ci response curves for petunia were almost identical at a θ of 0.22 and 0.15 m3·m-3. Regardless of species, ETR and ΦPSII were highest and NPQ was lowest at a θ of 0.22 m3·m-3. Based on these results, a θ of 0.22 m3·m-3 for salvia and impatiens and a slightly lower θ of 0.15 m3·m-3 for vinca and petunia, is optimal. Mean osmotic potential in all treatments was lower in vinca and salvia and resulted in higher turgor potential in these species than other species. Analysis of Pn-Ci response curves indicated that Pn at a θ of 0.09 m3·m-3 was limited by both gas phase (stomatal and boundary layer) and non-gas phase (mesophyll) resistance to CO2 transfer in salvia. At the lowest θ level, Pn in petunia was only limited by gas phase resistance, indicating that absence of mesophyll resistance during drought may play a role in the drought tolerance of petunia.

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Stefania De Pascale, Albino Maggio, Celestino Ruggiero, and Giancarlo Barbieri

We irrigated field-grown celery (Apium graveolens L. var. dulce [Mill.] Pers. 'Tall Utah') with four concentrations of saline water, NSC (nonstressed control), SW1, SW2, and SW3, corresponding to EC of 0.5, 4.4, 8.5, and 15.7 dS·m-1, respectively, plus a nonirrigated control (NIC) and investigated the effects of the treatments on water relations, yield and ion content. In addition, we compared simultaneously plant response to both salt and drought stress by using a modified version of the threshold-slope model. Increasing salinity of the irrigation water reduced fresh and dry weights of the shoots, but increased the dry matter percentage in shoots. The marketable yield was moderately affected by salinity (25% reduction at EC 8.5 dS·m-1). In contrast, a severe water stress dramatically decreased the marketable yield from 23 t·ha-1 (average of the irrigated treatments) to <7 t·ha-1 (nonirrigated control). Na+ and Cl- concentrations increased in salinized plants whereas nitrogen content, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations decreased upon salinization. Midday leaf water potentials (Ψt) decreased from -1.48 MPa (0.5 dS·m-1) to -2.05 MPa (15.7 dS·m-1) and - 2.17 MPa (nonirrigated control), though the reduction in leaf cellular turgor was less severe. The maintenance of high leaf cellular turgor was positively correlated to a decrease in osmotic potential and to an increased bulk modulus of elasticity. These results indicate that it is possible to irrigate celery with saline water (up to 8.5 dS·m-1) with acceptable losses in marketable yield and confirmed that in the field, this species has the ability to efficiently regulate water and ion homeostasis. In the absence of irrigation, celery plants were unable to cope with the drought stress experienced, although this was comparable, in terms of soil water potential, to the one caused by saline irrigation.