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Plasticity of sorghum stem biomass accumulation in response to water deficit: A multiscale analysis from internode tissue to plant level

Perrier L., Rouan L., Jaffuel S., Clément-Vidal A., Roques S., Soutiras A., Baptiste C., Bastianelli D., Fabre D., Dubois C., Pot D., Luquet D.. 2017. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8 : 14 p..

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01516

Sorghum is increasingly used as a biomass crop worldwide. Its genetic diversity provides a large range of stem biochemical composition suitable for various end-uses as bioenergy or forage. Its drought tolerance enables it to reasonably sustain biomass production under water limited conditions. However, drought effect on the accumulation of sorghum stem biomass remains poorly understood which limits progress in crop improvement and management. This study aimed at identifying the morphological, biochemical and histological traits underlying biomass accumulation in the sorghum stem and its plasticity in response to water deficit. Two hybrids (G1, G4) different in stem biochemical composition (G4, more lignified, less sweet) were evaluated during 2 years in the field in Southern France, under two water treatments differentiated during stem elongation (irrigated; 1 month dry-down until an average soil water deficit of -8.85 bars). Plant phenology was observed weekly. At the end of the water treatment and at final harvest, plant height, stem and leaf dry-weight and the size, biochemical composition and tissue histology of internodes at 2¿4 positions along the stem were measured. Stem biomass accumulation was significantly reduced by drought (in average 42% at the end of the dry-down). This was due to the reduction of the length, but not diameter, of the internodes expanded during water deficit. These internodes had more soluble sugar but lower lignin and cellulose contents. This was associated with a decrease of the areal proportion of lignified cell wall in internode outer zone whereas the areal proportion of this zone was not affected. All internodes for a given genotype and environment followed a common histochemical dynamics. Hemicellulose content and the areal proportion of inner vs. outer internode tissues were set up early during internode growth and were not drought responsive. G4 exhibited a higher drought sensitivity than G1 for plant height only. At final harvest, the stem dry weight was only 18% lower in water deficit (re-watered) compared to well-watered treatment and internodes growing during re-watering were similar to those on the well-watered plants. These results are being valorized to refine the phenotyping of sorghum diversity panels and breeding populations.

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