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Use of Chlorophyll Fluorescence Assessments to Differentiate Corn Hybrid Response To Variable Water Conditions


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 46 No. 2, p. 681-687
    Received: June 28, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): jshanahan1@unl.edu
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  1. Patrick M. O'Neill,
  2. John F. Shanahan * and
  3. James S. Schepers
  1. USDA-ARS, Lincoln, NE


Development of corn (Zea mays L.) germplasm tolerant to water stress will be vital to sustaining corn-based farming in the U.S. Great Plains. In a companion 4-yr field study near Shelton, NE, we found that 12 hybrids displayed differential agronomic responses to varying water levels, with tolerant hybrids yielding from 27 to 42% more than susceptible hybrids under stress while yielding similarly under no stress. The objective of this study was to determine if chlorophyll fluorescence (CF) measurements could be used to distinguish tolerant from susceptible hybrids. Leaf temperature (LT) and two CF parameters (Φ PSII, photosystem II quantum efficiency, and ETR, electron transport rate) were measured on three postflowering dates in 2001 using a fluorometer on a subset of original treatments involving two tolerant and susceptible hybrids grown under deficit and adequate water. Water effects were observed on only one date; LT was 2.5°C warmer and Φ PSII and ETR values were 25% lower for deficit vs. adequate water just after silking, signifying increased water stress and decreased photosynthesis during reproductive growth. Under stress, LTs were 2.8°C cooler and Φ PSII and ETR values 50% higher for tolerant vs. susceptible hybrids, while all hybrids produced similar CF values under no stress. Thus, grain yield and photosynthetic responses of hybrids to stress were similar, indicating that CF measurements can be used to distinguish tolerant from susceptible hybrids.

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