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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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Thayne Montague and Lindsey Fox

Recent droughts and depleted water tables across many regions have elevated the necessity to irrigate field-grown (FG) nursery trees. At the same time, ordinances restricting nursery irrigation volume (often without regard to plant water requirements) have been implemented. This research investigated gas exchange and growth of two FG maple tree species (Acer × freemanii `Autumn Blaze' and A. truncatum) subjected to three reference evapotranspiration (ETo) irrigation regimes (100%, 60%, and 30% of ETo) in a semi-arid climate. During Spring 2002, nine containerized (11.3 L) trees of each species were field planted in a randomized block design. Each year trees were irrigated through a drip irrigation system. During the first growing season, all trees were irrigated at 100% ETo. Irrigation treatments began Spring of 2003. Gas exchange data (pre-dawn leaf water potential and midday stomatal conductance) were collected during the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons and growth data (shoot elongation, caliper increase, and leaf area) were collected at the end of each growing season. For each species, yearly data indicates irrigation regime influenced gas exchange and growth of these FG trees. However, it is interesting to note gas exchange and growth of these FG maple trees were not necessarily associated with trees receiving the high irrigation treatment. In addition, it appears the influence of irrigation volume on the growth of these FG trees is plant structure and species specific. Our data suggests irrigation of FG trees based upon local ETo measurements and soil surface root area may be a means to conserve irrigation water and produce FG trees with adequate growth. However, continued research on the influence of reduced irrigation on FG tree species is needed.

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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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Ursula K. Schuch, Leslie H. Fuchigami, and Mike A. Nagao

The effects of water stress and GA, on breaking dormancy of flower buds of coffee (Coffea arabica L.) were investigated. In the first experiment, water was withheld until the trees reached leaf water potentials (WP) of -1.20, - 1.75, -2.65, or -3.50 MPa. Water potential, ethylene production, and ion leakage of flower buds and leaf disks were examined from release from water stress until anthesis. Trees that had experienced leaf WP of less than - 2.65 MPa, and flower bud WP of about - 4.0 MPa flowered within 9 days after irrigation. In flower buds where dormancy had been broken with water stress, ethylene production was low compared to dormant buds and flowers at anthesis. In the second experiment, O, 50, 100, or 200 mg GA3/liter was painted on branches of nonstressed trees. In experiment three, water was withheld until plants reached leaf WP of -0.6, -1.3, - 2.1, or - 3.0 MPa, then two branches per tree were painted with O, 50, and 100 mg GA3/liter. Gibberellic acid partially compensated for insufficient water stress to initiate flower opening. Ethylene evolution of flower buds was affected by water stress but not by GA3 treatment. Severe water stress treatments and GA, treatment (200 mg·liter-1) increased ethylene evolution of leaf disks. Ion leakage of flower buds and leaf disks was increased by severe water stress. Ion leakage of flower buds was highest at anthesis. After water stress, dormant and nondormant flower buds at the 4-mm stage could be distinguished based on their ethylene evolution. Chemical name used: gibberellic acid (GA3).

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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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Sebastiano Delfine, Francesco Loreto, and Arturo Alvino

Physiological characteristics, growth, and biomass production of rainfed and irrigated bell pepper [Capsicum annuum L. var. anuum (Grossum Group) `Quadrato d'Asti'] plants were measured in the semiarid conditions of a Mediterranean summer to determine if drought stress effects are transient and do not affect plant growth and crop yield or are persistent and adversely affect plant growth and crop yield. A low midday leaf water potential indicated the occurrence of transient drought stress episodes in rainfed plants during the first 2 months of the study. Later on, predawn water potential also increased, indicating a persistent drought stress condition despite the occurrence of some rainfall. Photosynthesis was reduced when stress conditions developed, but the reduction was transient and limited to the central part of the day during the first 2 months. As plants aged, however, the impact of drought stress on photosynthesis was not relieved during the overnight recovery period. Stomatal conductance was reduced both during transient and permanent stress conditions while CO2 transfer conductance (i.e., conductance to CO2 inside the leaf) was only reduced when photosynthesis inhibition was unrecoverable. However, chloroplast CO2 concentration was higher in rainfed than in irrigated leaves indicating that CO2 availability was not limiting photosynthesis. Nonphotochemical quenching of fluorescence increased significantly in rainfed leaves exposed to permanent stress indicating the likely impairment of ATP synthesis. Transient inhibition of photosynthesis did not significantly affect leaf area index and biomass production, but growth was significantly reduced when photosynthesis was permanently inhibited. Fruit dry weight was even higher in rainfed plants compared to irrigated plants until drought stress and photosynthesis reduction became permanent. It is suggested that bell pepper growth without supplemental irrigation over the first part of the vegetative cycle does not impair plant growth and may even be useful to improve yield of early fruit.

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Lenore J. Nash and William R. Graves

Responses of five bottomland tree taxa to drought and flooding were studied to identify those adapted to urban environments. During one experiment, containerized `Franksred' red maple [Acer rubrum L. `Franksred' (trademark = Red Sunset)], sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana L.), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica Marsh.), bald cypress [Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.], and pawpaw [Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal.] were treated with various irrigation regimes for up to 118 days. Net assimilation rate (NAR) and relative growth rate (RGR) were reduced more by flooding than by drought for plants of all taxa, except pawpaw, which showed similar NAR and RGR during flooding and drought. Only sweetbay magnolia and bald cypress maintained positive NAR and RGR during flooding, and sweetbay magnolia was the only taxon that did not produce significantly less leaf surface area, shoot dry mass, and root dry mass during flooding and drought. Apparent morphological mechanisms of stress resistance included an increase in specific mass of leaves (mg·cm-2) during drought for red maple and bald cypress and a 385% increase in the root: shoot mass ratio for droughted plants of pawpaw. Leaf water relations of drought- and flood-stressed `Franksred' red maple and sweetbay magnolia were determined in a second experiment. Predawn and mid-day leaf water potential (ψ) decreased with decreasing root-zone matric potential for both taxa, and transpiration rate was reduced by drought and flooding. Pressure-volume analysis showed that leaves of `Franksred' red maple responded to drought by shifting symplastic water to the apoplast. Leaves of drought-stressed sweetbay magnolia adjusted osmotically by reducing osmotic potential (ψπ) at full turgor by 0.26 MPa. Our results suggest that sweetbay magnolia and bald cypress will perform well at urban planting sites where episodes of drought and flooding regularly occur.

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Hava F. Rapoport, Giacomo Costagli, and Riccardo Gucci

Water deficit was applied between 4 and 9 weeks after full bloom by withholding irrigation from 3-year-old Olea europaea L. (`Leccino') plants grown in 2 L containers in a greenhouse. At 6, 8, and 22 weeks after full bloom (AFB), fruit were sampled for fresh weight and volume determinations, and then fixed for anatomical studies. Structural observations and measurements were performed on transverse sections at the point of widest fruit diameter using image analysis. Water deficit applied between 4 and 9 weeks AFB produced a significant decrease in predawn leaf water potential, which reached minimum values of -3.1 MPa. The applied water deficit reduced fruit fresh weight and volume at 8 and 22 weeks AFB. Fruit transverse area of the water deficit treatment was 50%, 33%, and 70% of the irrigated one at the 6-, 8-, and 22-week sampling dates, respectively. Mesocarp growth occurred for both irrigated and water deficit plants between 8 and 22 weeks AFB. At 22 weeks AFB differences between treatments were significant for mesocarp transverse area, but not for endocarp area. Mesocarp cell size, indicated by area, was significantly different between treatments at 8 and 22 weeks AFB. However, the mesocarp cell number was similar for both treatments at all times, and most mesocarp cells were produced by 6 weeks AFB. The growth of endocarp area showed the greatest shift in timing in response to the early water deficit. Ninety percent of endocarp growth had occurred by 8 weeks AFB in the irrigated treatment, but only 40% when the deficit irrigation treatment was imposed.

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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.

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R. Romero-Aranda, T. Soria, and J. Cuartero

High salinity levels in irrigation water available in Mediterranean coastal areas induce a significant loss of yield in greenhouse tomato crops. This loss increases during the spring-summer growing season when high irradiance, temperature, and low humidity occur within greenhouses. This study determined whether salt-induced yield losses could be alleviated by increasing humidity by misting the greenhouse atmosphere. Plants of `Daniela' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), were irrigated with 0 or 50 mm NaCl added to the nutrient solution and grown under natural greenhouse conditions or under applications of fine mist every 8 min during the day. During midday hours, misting reduced greenhouse air vapor pressure deficit 1.0 to 1.5 kPa and reduced greenhouse air temperature 5 to 7-°C. Mist reduced root water uptake from the medium by 40% in nonsalinized plants and by 15% in saline conditions. Foliar concentration of Na was lower in misted-salinized plants than in nonmisted salinized plants. Less negative leaf water potential and higher leaf turgor were recorded with mist at midday, in both salinized and nonsalinized plants. Midday stomatal conductances and net CO2 assimilation rates of salinized-misted plants were 3 and 4 times higher, respectively, than those recorded in salinized-nonmisted plants. Misted plants increased instantaneous water use efficiency 84% to 100%, as estimated from the ratio of net CO2 assimilation to transpiration. Nonsalinized plants grown with mist increased total leaf area by 38%, dry matter by 10%, and yield by 18% over nonmisted plants. Salinized plants grown with mist increased total plant leaf area by 50%, dry matter by 80%, and yield by 100%. Greenhouse misting resulted in a saving of total water input of 31 L/plant under nonsaline conditions and in greater yields and fruit size regardless of salinity. Results suggest that greenhouse misting, during the Mediterranean spring-summer growing season, improves tomato crop productivity both under nonsaline and saline growth conditions.