, Volume 215, Issue 3, pp 466-471

Xylem embolism and drought-induced stomatal closure in maize

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Water relations during drought and xylem vulnerability to embolism were studied on four maize (Zea mays L.) genotypes having contrasting grain yields under drought conditions. Drought provoked a drop in xylem pressure, leaf water potential and whole-plant transpiration. Transpiration was reduced to a minimum value when xylem pressures reached ca. –1.6 MPa. This value corresponded to the threshold xylem pressure below which xylem embolism developed to a substantial degree in leaf midribs. Therefore, xylem embolism always remained low in leaf veins, even when plants exhibited clear water-stress symptoms. This suggests that stomatal closure during drought contains xylem embolism to a minimum value. Cavitation resistance was not related to grain yield under drought conditions for the four genotypes evaluated. However, it can be speculated that an increase in cavitation resistance by cultural practices or genetic selection may increase drought survival in maize.

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