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  1. Vol. 34 No. 2, p. 452-458
     
    Received: Apr 9, 1993
    Published: Mar, 1994


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doi:10.2135/cropsci1994.0011183X003400020027x

Variation for Water-Use Efficiency in Alfalfa Germplasm

  1. R. C. Johnson  and
  2. L. L. Tieszen
  1. USDA-ARS Plant Germplasm Research and Testing Unit, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6402, and Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD 57197

Abstract

Abstract

Carbon isotope discrimination (Δ) shows promise for estimating water-use efficiency (WUE, grams dry weight/gram water transpired) in C3 crop species. The objective of this study was to determine if variation for Δ is present in diverse alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) germplasm, and if Δ is correlated with direct measurements of WUE. Eighteen alfalfa accessions originating from 13 countries were established in 1990 in irrigated and dryland environments at Central Ferry, WA, in a fine-silty, mixed, mesic Typic Natrixeroll soil. Significant differences among accessions for leaf Δ were observed with no significant environment × accession interaction. Based on 1990 results, high Δ (PI 420400, 20.3%0), middle Δ (P1 522242, 19.7%0), and low Δ (PI 434600,18.9%o) accessions were selected for additional field evaluation in 1991. For the dryland environment in 1991, leaf Δ of PI 434600 was lower than PI 420400, but accession differences were not observed in the irrigated environment. In greenhouse pot studies, accessions did not differ for total plant WUE. But shoot WUE values all differed significantly, and were 2.43,2.09, and 1.73 g dry wt./kg transpiration for the low, middle and high Δ accessions, respectively. Total plant WUE was correlated with Δ only under drought stress (r = −0.55**, n = 30), but shoot WUE and Δ were correlated within well watered (r = −0.63**, n = 30) and drought-stressed (r = −0.73**, n = 30) treatments. Correlations between shoot WUE and root:shoot values were negative and significant at P = 0.01, suggesting that root/shoot carbon partitioning influenced shoot WUE. Results show reproducible variation for Δ in alfalfa germplasm, and that Δ is potentially useful for evaluating alfalfa germplasm for WUE.

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Copyright © 1994. Crop Science Society of America, Inc.Copyright © 1994 by the Crop Science Society of America, Inc.