Morphological and Physiological Traits that Explain Yield Response to Drought Stress in Miscanthus

Malinowska M, Donnison I, Robson P.

Miscanthus is a high yielding perennial grass capable of high biomass yields with low inputs. Traits associated with yield have been identified in miscanthus, but less is known about the traits associated with sustaining biomass production under drought stress. The commercial hybrid M. × giganteus and high yielding examples from the parental species M. sinensis and M. sacchariflorus were grown under well-watered and moderate drought conditions. Growth, morphology, physiology and phenotypic plasticity were analyzed. Functional data were parameterized and a matrix of traits examined for associations with yield, genotype and drought treatment. Phenotypic plasticity was determined, indexes were then calculated to determine the plasticity of trait responses. All genotypes assessed responded to moderate drought stress, and genotypic differences in yield decreased under drought. Genotypes with low tolerance exhibited greater plasticity than highly drought tolerant M. sinensis. In well-watered plants variance in yield was explained by a relatively simple empirical model including stem length and stem number, whereas under drought a more complex model was needed including the addition of leaf area and stomatal conductance data. This knowledge can help us to define ideotypes for drought tolerance and develop miscanthus varieties that sustain high yields across a range of environmental conditions.

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