Leaf Photosynthesis of Upland and Lowland Crops Grown under Moisture-Rich Conditions

  • Tadashi HirasawaEmail author
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 44)


Decreasing soil water potential decreases leaf water potential, causing stomatal closure to reduce water loss and restricting CO2 uptake. Water stress decreases photosynthesis under intense transpiration even with sufficient soil moisture. Root resistance to water transport (the reciprocal of hydraulic conductance) then controls leaf water potential and photosynthesis.

Stomatal closure occurs earlier in rice (Oryza sativa) than in other crop plants. This high sensitivity significantly decreases midday and afternoon photosynthesis even in irrigated fields. The reduction is particularly remarkable in varieties with low hydraulic conductance. Their maximum early-morning stomatal conductance and photosynthetic rates, when the vapor-pressure deficit is small, are small due to reduced leaf water potential. In contrast, stomatal conductance and photosynthetic rates in varieties with high hydraulic conductance are higher in the morning and remain high at midday and in the afternoon. Varieties with high root surface area have high whole-plant hydraulic conductance. High root capacity to transport cytokinins to the shoot can keep leaf nitrogen content high and preserve high photosynthetic rates during senescence. Researchers have detected quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that increase hydraulic conductance and leaf nitrogen content by increasing root surface area. A near-isogenic line carrying such QTLs showed greater photosynthesis, and an introgression line with two QTLs for increased hydraulic conductance had higher stomatal conductance and photosynthetic rates than lines carrying only one QTL. This suggests that photosynthesis can be improved by marker-assisted selection for these QTLs.

Photosynthesis of upland crops is also affected by root system development, which depends on soil moisture. In Japan’s monsoon climate, summer crops in rainfed fields show decreased growth during the hotter, drier late summer. Since upland crops develop vigorous shoots with poorly developed roots during the rainy season, they suffer from water stress in late summer, even when soil moisture is available. In soybean (Glycine max), this greatly reduces midday photosynthesis and photosynthesis during reproductive growth (when leaf senescence occurs), thereby reducing yield. Winter crops also experience soil moisture fluctuations: mid-March to April is a wet period, approximately 1 month before flowering, when winter grain crops grow rapidly, significantly affecting root and shoot growth. In wheat (Triticum estivum), a wet spring can inhibit root growth before flowering, greatly reducing photosynthesis by advancing senescence during ripening, thereby reducing grain yield. Because roots absorb water and nitrogen and synthesize cytokinins, improving drainage will promote vigorous root growth and increase photosynthesis of upland crops.



leaf water potential


soil water potential


root surface area


bulliform cell


intercellular CO2 concentration


conjugated zeatin




days after planting


vapor pressure in the atmosphere


vapor pressure in the leaf


water flux through the SPAC


mesophyll conductance




leaf area index


root hydraulic conductivity


whole-root hydraulic conductance


mesophyll cell


near-isogenic line


quantitative trait locus


leaf resistance to water transport


whole-plant resistance to water transport


root resistance to water transport


stem resistance to water transport


ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase


ribulose 1,5-bisphospate


soil-plant-atmosphere continuum






vascular bundle



This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science, and Technology of Japan (grant no. 25252007).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of AgricultureTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyTokyoJapan

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