Plant and Soil

, Volume 430, Issue 1–2, pp 23–35 | Cite as

Optimized potassium nutrition improves plant-water-relations of barley under PEG-induced osmotic stress

  • Ershad TavakolEmail author
  • Bálint Jákli
  • Ismail Cakmak
  • Klaus Dittert
  • Petr Karlovsky
  • Katharina Pfohl
  • Mehmet Senbayram
Regular Article



Water use efficiency (WUE) of crop plants is an important plant trait for maintaining high yield in water limited areas. By influencing osmoregulation of plants, potassium (K) plays a critical role in stress avoidance and adaptation. However, whole plant physiological mechanisms modulated by K supply in respect of plant drought tolerance and water use efficiency are not well understood. In the present study, growth, development and transpiration dynamics of two barley cultivars were evaluated with and without PEG-induced osmotic stress using an automated balance system and image based leaf area determination.


Experiments were conducted to study the effects of varied K supply under different osmotic stress treatments on a wide range of morphological, biochemical and physiological characteristics of barley plants such as leaf area development, daily whole plant transpiration rate (DTR), stomatal conductance (gs), assimilation rate (AN), biomass and leaf water use efficiency (WUE) as well as foliar abscisic acid (ABA) concentrations. Two barley cultivars (cv. Sahin-91 and cv. Milford) were treated with two K supply levels (0.04 and 0.8 mM K) and osmotic stress induced by polyethylene glycol 6000 (PEG) for a period of 9 days (in total 48 days experiment) in the hydroponic plant culture (non-PEG and + 20% PEG ).


Without PEG, low-K supply depressed dry matter (DM) by almost 60% averaged across both cultivars. Under osmotic stress (+PEG), total leaf area was reduced by almost 70% in low-K compared to adequate-K plants. Low K concentration under PEG stress was correlated with higher ABA concentration and was correlated with lower leaf- and whole plant transpiration rate. Biomass-WUE under low K supply decreased significantly in both barley cultivars, to a greater extent in cv. Milford under osmotic stress. However, leaf-WUE was not affected by K supply in the absence of osmotic stress.


It was suggested that reduced biomass-WUE in low-K treated barley plants was not related to inefficient stomatal control under K deficiency, but instead due to reduced assimilation rate. It was further hypothesized that under low K supply, a number of energy consuming activities reduce biomass-WUE, which are not distinguished by measuring leaf-WUE. This study showed that low K supply under osmotic stress increases foliar ABA concentration thereby decreasing plant transpiration.


ABA concentration Potassium nutrition concentration Stomatal conductance Transpiration Water use efficiency 



The research performed for this paper was financed by K+S KALI GmbH, Germany. We would also like to thank the staff of IAPN and the plant nutrition group of Göttingen University for their technical support.


  1. Amtmann A, Armengaud P (2009) Effects of N, P, K and S on metabolism: new knowledge gained from multi-level analysis. Curr Opin Plant Biol 12:275–283. Physiology and Metabolism Edited by David E Salt and Lorraine Williams. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen MN, Jensen CR, Lösch R (1992) The interaction effects of potassium and drought in field-grown barley. I. Yield, water-use efficiency and growth. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B-Plant SoilSciences 42:34–44Google Scholar
  3. Ashraf M, Ahmad A, McNeilly T (2001) Growth and photosynthetic characteristics in pearl millet under water stress and different potassium supply. Photosynthetica 39:389–394. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Battie-Laclau P, Delgado-Rojas JS, Christina M, Nouvellon Y, Bouillet J-P, Piccolo M d C, Moreira MZ, Gonçalves JL d M, Roupsard O, Laclau J-P (2016) Potassium fertilization increases water-use efficiency for stem biomass production without affecting intrinsic water-use efficiency in Eucalyptus grandis plantations. For Ecol Manag 364:77–89. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bednarz CW, Oosterhuis DM, Evans RD (1998) Leaf photosynthesis and carbon isotope discrimination of cotton in response to potassium deficiency. Environ Exp Bot 39:131–139. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benlloch-Gonzalez M, Arquero O, Maria Fournier J, Barranco D, Benlloch M (2008) K+ starvation inhibits water-stress-induced stomatal closure. J Plant Physiol 165:623–630. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Benlloch-González M, Romera J, Cristescu S, Harren F, Fournier JM, Benlloch M (2010) K+ starvation inhibits water-stress-induced stomatal closure via ethylene synthesis in sunflower plants. J Exp Bot 61:1139–1145. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bottrill DE, Possingham JV, Kriedemann PE (1970) The effect of nutrient deficiencies on phosynthesis and respiration in spinach. Plant Soil 32:424–438. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brag H (1972) The influence of potassium on the transpiration rate and stomatal opening in Triticum aestivum and Pisum sativum. Physiol Plant 26:250–257. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cakmak I (1994) Activity of ascorbate-dependent H2O2-scavenging enzymes and leaf chlorosis are enhanced in magnesium-and potassium-deficient leaves, but not in phosphorus-deficient leaves. J Exp Bot 45:1259–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cakmak I, Kirkby EA (2008) Role of magnesium in carbon partitioning and alleviating photooxidative damage. Physiol Plant 133:692–704. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cernusak LA, Winter K, Turner BL (2009) Physiological and isotopic ( δ 13 C and δ 18 O) responses of three tropical tree species to water and nutrient availability. Plant Cell Environ 32:1441–1455. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Chen L, Dodd IC, Davies WJ, Wilkinson S (2013) Ethylene limits abscisic acid- or soil drying-induced stomatal closure in aged wheat leaves. Plant Cell Environ 36:1850–1859. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Daszkowska-Golec A, Szarejko I (2013) Open or close the gate - stomata action under the control of phytohormones in drought stress conditions. Front Plant Sci 4.
  15. Duncan DB (1955) Multiple range and multiple F tests. Biometrics 11:1. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Egilla JN, Davies FT, Drew MC (2001) Effect of potassium on drought resistance of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cv. Leprechaun: plant growth, leaf macro- and micronutrient content and root longevity. Plant Soil 229:213–224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Egilla JN, Davies FT, Boutton TW (2005) Drought stress influences leaf water content, photosynthesis, and water-use efficiency of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis at three potassium concentrations. Photosynthetica 43:135–140. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farquhar GD, Sharkey TD (1982) Stomatal conductance and photosynthesis. Annu Rev Plant Physiol 33:317–345. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farquhar GD, Ehleringer JR, Hubick KT (1989) Carbon isotope discrimination and photosynthesis. Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol 40:503–537. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fournier JM, Roldán ÁM, Sánchez C, Alexandre G, Benlloch M (2005) K+ starvation increases water uptake in whole sunflower plants. Plant Sci 168:823–829. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gattward JN, Almeida A-AF, Souza JO, Gomes FP, Kronzucker HJ (2012) Sodium–potassium synergism in Theobroma cacao: stimulation of photosynthesis, water-use efficiency and mineral nutrition. Physiol Plant 146:350–362. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gerardeaux E, Jordan-Meille L, Constantin J, Pellerin S, Dingkuhn M (2010) Changes in plant morphology and dry matter partitioning caused by potassium deficiency in Gossypium hirsutum (L.). Environ Exp Bot 67:451–459. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gupta AS, Berkowitz GA, Pier PA (1989) Maintenance of photosynthesis at low leaf water potential in wheat role of potassium status and irrigation history. Plant Physiol 89:1358–1365. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Häffner E, Karlovsky P, Splivallo R, Traczewska A, Diederichsen E (2014) ERECTA, salicylic acid, abscisic acid, and jasmonic acid modulate quantitative disease resistance of Arabidopsis thaliana to Verticillium longisporum. BMC Plant Biol 14:85. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Hafsi C, Romero-Puertas MC, del Río LA, Abdelly C, Sandalio LM (2011) Antioxidative response of Hordeum maritimum L. to potassium deficiency. Acta Physiol Plant 33:193–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsiao TC, Lauchli A (1986) Role of potassium in plant-water relations. Advances in plant nutrition (USA)Google Scholar
  27. Jákli B, Tavakol E, Tränkner M, Senbayram M, Dittert K (2016a) Quantitative limitations to photosynthesis in K deficient sunflower and their implications on water-use efficiency. J Plant Physiol.
  28. Jákli B, Tränkner M, Senbayram M, Dittert K (2016b) Adequate supply of potassium improves plant water-use efficiency but not leaf water-use efficiency of spring wheat. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci. n/a-n/a.
  29. Jordan-Meille L, Pellerin S (2004) Leaf area establishment of a maize (Zea Mays L.) field crop under potassium deficiency. Plant Soil 265:75–92. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kanai S, Moghaieb RE, El-Shemy HA, Panigrahi R, Mohapatra PK, Ito J, Nguyen NT, Saneoka H, Fujita K (2011) Potassium deficiency affects water status and photosynthetic rate of the vegetative sink in green house tomato prior to its effects on source activity. Plant Sci 180(2):368–374. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Law BE, Falge E, Gu L, Baldocchi DD, Bakwin P, Berbigier P, Davis K, Dolman AJ, Falk M, Fuentes JD, Goldstein A, Granier A, Grelle A, Hollinger D, Janssens IA, Jarvis P, Jensen NO, Katul G, Mahli Y, Matteucci G, Meyers T, Monson R, Munger W, Oechel W, Olson R, Pilegaard K, Paw U KT, Thorgeirsson H, Valentini R, Verma S, Vesala T, Wilson K, Wofsy S (2002) Environmental controls over carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange of terrestrial vegetation. Agric For Meteorol, FLUXNET 2000 Synthesis 113:97–120. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lim CW, Baek W, Jung J, Kim J-H, Lee SC (2015) Function of ABA in stomatal defense against biotic and drought stresses. Int J Mol Sci 16:15251–15270. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Lösch R, Jensen CR, Andersen MN (1992) Diurnal courses and factorial dependencies of leaf conductance and transpiration of differently potassium fertilized and watered field grown barley plants. Plant Soil 140:205–224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lu Z, Lu J, Pan Y, Lu P, Li X, Cong R, Ren T (2016) Anatomical variation of mesophyll conductance under potassium deficiency has a vital role in determining leaf photosynthesis. Plant Cell Environ 39:2428–2439. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Lynch J, Läuchli A (1984) Potassium transport in salt-stressed barley roots. Planta 161:295–301CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Marschner H (2012) Marschner’s mineral nutrition of higher plants, 3rd edn. Elsevier, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Martineau E, Domec JC, Bosc A, Denoroy P, Fandino VA, Lavres Jr J, Jordan-Meille L (2017) The effects of potassium nutrition on water use in field-grown maize (Zea mays L.). Environ Exp Bot 134:62–71Google Scholar
  38. Martin-Vertedor AI, Dodd IC (2011) Root-to-shoot signalling when soil moisture is heterogeneous: increasing the proportion of root biomass in drying soil inhibits leaf growth and increases leaf abscisic acid concentration. Plant Cell Environ 34:1164–1175. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Medrano H, Tomás M, Martorell S, Flexas J, Hernández E, Rosselló J, ... & Bota J (2015) From leaf to whole-plant water use efficiency (WUE) in complex canopies: limitations of leaf WUE as a selection target. The Crop Journal 3(3):220–228Google Scholar
  40. Mengel K, Kirkby EA, Kosegarten H, Appel T (2001) Potassium. In: Mengel K, Kirkby EA, Kosegarten H, Appel T (eds) Principles of plant nutrition. springer netherlands, pp 481–511. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Michel BE, Kaufmann MR (1973) The osmotic potential of polyethylene glycol 6000. Plant Physiol 51:914–916CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. Pi Z, Stevanato P, Sun F, Yang Y, Sun X, Zhao H, Geng G, Yu L (2016) Proteomic changes induced by potassium deficiency and potassium substitution by sodium in sugar beet. J Plant Res 129:527–538. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rasband WS (1997) ImageJ. US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MDGoogle Scholar
  44. R Core Team 2014) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  45. Ratzinger A, Riediger N, von Tiedemann A, Karlovsky P (2009) Salicylic acid and salicylic acid glucoside in xylem sap of Brassica napus infected with Verticillium longisporum. J Plant Res 122:571–579. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Seibt U, Rajabi A, Griffiths H, Berry JA (2008) Carbon isotopes and water use efficiency: sense and sensitivity. Oecologia 155:441. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Senbayram M, Tränkner M, Dittert K, Brück H (2015) Daytime leaf water use efficiency does not explain the relationship between plant N status and biomass water-use efficiency of tobacco under non-limiting water supply. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 178:682–692. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith BN, Epstein S (1971) Two caterogies of 13C/12C ratios for higher plants. Plant Physiol 47:380–384CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Tambussi E a, Bort J, Araus J l (2007) Water use efficiency in C3 cereals under Mediterranean conditions: a review of physiological aspects. Ann Appl Biol 150:307–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tränkner M, Jákli B, Tavakol E, Geilfus C-M, Cakmak I, Dittert K, Senbayram M (2016) Magnesium deficiency decreases biomass water-use efficiency and increases leaf water-use efficiency and oxidative stress in barley plants. Plant Soil 406:409–423. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vishwakarma K, Upadhyay N, Kumar N, Yadav G, Singh J, Mishra RK, Kumar V, Verma R, Upadhyay RG, Pandey M, Sharma S (2017) Abscisic acid signaling and abiotic stress tolerance in plants: a review on current knowledge and future prospects. Front Plant Sci 8.
  52. Von Caemmerer SV, Farquhar GD (1981) Some relationships between the biochemistry of photosynthesis and the gas exchange of leaves. Planta 153:376–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wang M, Zheng Q, Shen Q, Guo S (2013) The critical role of potassium in plant stress response. Int J Mol Sci 14:7370–7390. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  54. White PJ, Broadley MR (2003) Calcium in plants. Ann Bot 92:487–511. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  55. Yamburenko MV, Zubo YO, Börner T (2015) Abscisic acid affects transcription of chloroplast genes via protein phosphatase 2C-dependent activation of nuclear genes: repression by guanosine-3′-5′-bisdiphosphate and activation by sigma factor 5. Plant J 82:1030–1041. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhang J, Jia W, Yang J, Ismail AM (2006) Role of ABA in integrating plant responses to drought and salt stresses. Field Crop Res, Preparing Rice for a Water-Limited Future: from Molecular to Regional Scale. International Rice Research Congress 97:111–119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zörb C, Senbayram M, Peiter E (2014) Potassium in agriculture – status and perspectives. J Plant Physiol 171:656–669. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
corrected publication June/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.K+S KALI GmbHKasselGermany
  2. 2.Department of Crop Science, Section of Plant Nutrition & Crop PhysiologyGeorg-August University GoettingenGoettingenGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Sabanci UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Department of Crop SciencesMolecular Phytopathology and Mycotoxin Research, Georg-August University GoettingenGoettingenGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, University of HarranSanliurfaTurkey

Personalised recommendations