Plant and Soil

, Volume 258, Issue 1, pp 249–260

Responses to drought of five Brachiaria species. II. Water relations and leaf gas exchange

  • Orlando Guenni
  • Zdravko Baruch
  • Douglas Marín


Neotropical savannas are exposed to recurrent dry periods of varied duration, and forage grasses must be able to cope with such temporal stresses to maintain productive pastures. This study compared leaf water relations and net photosynthesis under drought of five perennial Brachiaria species: the tufted B. brizantha (CIAT 6780), the semi-stoloniferous B. decumbens (CIAT 606) and B. mutica, and the stoloniferous B. humidicola (CIAT 679) and B. dictyoneura (CIAT 6133). Plants of the five grasses were grown in large pots and subjected to drought by suspending watering until first wilting symptoms (14 days for B. brizantha, B. decumbens and B. mutica, and 29 days for B. humidicola and B. dictyoneura). Afterwards, they were re-watered and a second soil dry cycle was imposed. Time trends in leaf water potential (Ψl), relative water content (RWC), osmotic potential at full turgor (Ψ0100), stomatal conductance (Gs) and net photosynthesis (A) of stressed (DT) plants were compared to those of well-irrigated (CT) plants. Predawn Ψl in DT plants decreased to a minimum of −1.5 and −2.0 MPa in B. brizantha and B. mutica, compared to −2.5 to −3.0 MPa in B. decumbens, B. humidicola and B. dictyoneura. RWC decreased up to 50% in B. brizantha, compared to 75% in the other species. In B. humidicola, B. dictyoneura and in a lesser extent, B. decumbens, leaves of DT plants adjusted osmotically, by an apparent accumulation of nutrient solutes, at a rather constant ratio of turgid to dry weight of the tissue. Calculated osmotic adjustment ranged between 0.38 (B. decumbens) to 0.87 MPa (B. humidicola). This adjustment in Ψ0100 was in some cases maintained 7 days after re-watering. In B. brizantha and B. mutica, Gs and A were significantly affected by drought, with maximum reduction percentages at the second drought period of 65 and 80%, respectively. The corresponding reduction in B. decumbens was 53 and 55%, respectively; whereas in B. humidicola and B. dictyoneura Gs and A were reduced less than 20%. In all species, re-watering allowed for the water relations (except Ψ0100) and photosynthetic activity of leaves of DT plants to reach values comparable to those of CT plants. Results are discussed in term of root morphology and soil water extraction pattern, as well as leaf traits that may contribute to withstand drought under moderate soil water stress.

Brachiaria pastures drought stress osmotic adjustment photosynthesis tropical savannas 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Orlando Guenni
    • 1
  • Zdravko Baruch
    • 2
  • Douglas Marín
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Botánica Agrícola, Facultad de AgronomíaUniversidad Central de VenezuelaMaracayVenezuela
  2. 2.Departamento de Estudios AmbientalesUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracasVenezuela

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