Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems


Authors: Huntenburg, Katharina; Puertolas, Jaime; de Ollas, Carlos; Dodd, Ian C.


While the importance of plant water relations in determining crop response to soil water availability is difficult to over-emphasise, under many circumstances, plants maintain their leaf water status as the soil dries yet shoot gas exchange and growth is restricted. Such observations lead to development of a paradigm that root-to-shoot signals regulate shoot physiology, and a conceptual framework to test the importance of different signals such as plant hormones in these physiological processes. Nevertheless, shoot-to-root (hormonal) signalling also plays an important role in regulating root growth and function and may dominate when larger quantities of a hormone are produced in the shoots than the roots. Here, we review the evidence for acropetal and basipetal transport of three different plant hormones (abscisic acid, jasmonates, strigolactones) that have antitranspirant effects, to indicate the origin and action of these signalling systems. The physiological importance of each transport pathway likely depends on the specific environmental conditions the plant is exposed to, specifically whether the roots or shoots are the first to lose turgor when exposed to drying soil or elevated atmospheric demand, respectively. All three hormones can interact to influence each other’s synthesis, degradation and intracellular signalling to augment or attenuate their physiological impacts, highlighting the complexity of unravelling these signalling systems. Nevertheless, such complexity suggests crop improvement opportunities to select for allelic variation in the genes affecting hormonal regulation, and (in selected crops) to augment root–shoot communication by judicious selection of rootstock–scion combinations to ameliorate abiotic stresses.

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