Reversing Drought-Induced Losses in Grain Yield: Sucrose Maintains Embryo Growth in Maize
- Sergio Adolfo Zinselmeier,
- M. J. Lauer and
- J. S. Boyer
Large losses in yield can occur in maize (Zea mays L.) growing in water-limited conditions (low Ψw), particularly during flowering and early embryo growth where grain number is decreased. However, embryo growth is maintained where otherwise none would occur if the stems are infused with photosynthate (sucrose) and other nutrients (amino acids, salts, vitamins, and hormones) during exposure to low Ψw. In the present investigation, we deleted or supplied various components of the complete infusion mediumto identify the active solute. Infusions involved making a cavity in a stem internode, filling the cavity with water, sealing the cavity, and connecting the interior of the cavity to an external reservoir of the medium. A field experiment at high Ψw showed that wounds and enhanced nutrient supplies from the infusions did not alter embryo growth or yield. In controlled environment chambers, low ~w was imposed by withholding water for 6 d beginning 5 d prior to pollinations. A new infusion was made each day for 5 d as the low Ψw developed around pollination. The low Ψw virtually eliminated grain development. Sucrose infusion reversed this loss and no other component of the medium showed activity under our conditions. In plants receiving no sucrose at low Ψw, ovary sucrose content was moderately lower and starch much lower than in controls. In plants receiving sucrose at low Ψw, ovary sucrose content was higher than in controls and starch recovered moderately. The difference in sucrose and starch responses indicates that carbohydrate metabolism was altered in the ovaries at low Ψw. Embryo survival correlated more closely with the content of starch than sucrose. We conclude that there were two effects of low Ψw that contributed to arrested embryo growth: a decreased sucrose flux and an altered carbohydrate metabolism in the ovaries.
Copyright © 1995.