Physiological parameters of desert truffle mycorrhizal Helianthemun almeriense plants cultivated in orchards under water deficit conditions
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- Morte, A., Navarro-Ródenas, A. & Nicolás, E. Symbiosis (2010) 52: 133. doi:10.1007/s13199-010-0080-4
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Physiological parameters of mycorrhizal symbiosis by Helianthemum almeriense and Terfezia claveryi in orchards were characterized under water deficit conditions. Our orchard included 40 mycorrhizal and 40 nonmycorrhizal plants. Only mycorrhizal plants survived at the beginning of the experimental period, indicating dependency on fungal symbionts in roots for survival. Drought stress significantly affected the mycorrhizal colonization percentage which was 70% in nonirrigated mycorrhizal and 48% in irrigated mycorrhizal plants. No significant differences in plant growth were observed between nonirrigated and irrigated mycorrhizal plants before and after drought stress. Stomatal conductance was more sensitive to water stress than shoot water potential. It decreased more than two-fold under drought-stress compared to control mycorrhizal plants under irrigation/light saturating conditions, indicating important stomatal closure with water deficit. Plants’ water use efficiency improved with drought with stomatal conductance values below 0.3 mol m−2 s−1. The ability to maintain open stomata and photosynthesis under drought increased carbon supply for growth, and ascocarp fruiting which requires current photosynthates. Basically, H. almeriense shows a conservative water use strategy based mainly on avoiding drought stress by reducing stomatal conductance as soil water potential decreases and atmospheric conditions dry. The results show that mycorrhizal H. almeriense plants maintain good physiological parameters with low soil matric potentials, thus making them an alternative agricultural crop in arid/semi-arid areas.