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Drought tolerant traits of triticale and cowpea genotypes under semi-arid conditions

Munjonji Lawrence

Titre : Drought tolerant traits of triticale and cowpea genotypes under semi-arid conditions

Auteur : Munjonji, Lawrence

Université de soutenance : UNIVERSITY OF LIMPOPO


Résumé partiel
Climate change and variability pose a significant challenge to future global food security due to changes in mean climatic conditions which are rendering many areas marginally suitable for crop production. Erratic rains, drought, heat stress and declining soil fertility are some of the factors limiting crop productivity in many arid and semi-arid areas. Furthermore, water resources that could be used to mitigate drought and erratic rains, are also threatened by both scarcity and overuse. To ensure food security in the future, adaptation strategies at crop and management levels should be explored. Adaptation to future drier and warmer climates calls, among others, for improvement in drought resistance of crops through measures such as screening traits for drought tolerance and water use efficiency. This PhD study was carried out at University of Limpopo experimental farm, Limpopo Province, South Africa, a region with a semi-arid climate and mean annual rainfall of ca. 500 mm. The main aim of the study was to evaluate the use of plant δ13C and δ18O as screening traits for potential yield and water use efficiency of crop genotypes under drought conditions. The study also determined the agronomic performance of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) and triticale (x. Triticosecale Wittmack) genotypes under varying soil moisture conditions including biological nitrogen fixation for cowpea. Both crops were grown under field conditions and the following four moisture levels (averages per level) were applied : well-watered (ca. 420 mm), moderately well-watered (ca. 350 mm), medium stress (ca. 290 mm), and severe stress (ca. 220 mm). The triticale experiment evaluated the agronomic performance and the spectral response of triticale to water stress under semi-arid conditions. The results showed a significant (P < 0.05) influence of moisture levels on the spectral reflectance, as well as on biomass and grain yield performance of triticale. However, these measured parameters did not significantly (P > 0.05) respond to genotypes probably due to the pre-screening of the genotypes or the lack of distinct genetic diversity in the studied parameters. Under well-watered conditions, triticale produced a grain yield of 3.9 t ha-1 in 2013 and 4.9 t ha-1 in 2014. These yields were however, found to be low when compared to other studies. Even though, no statistical differences were observed among the genotypes, Agbeacon showed a tendency of higher performance compared to the other genotypes. Of the four spectral indices tested, water based indices i.e. the water index (WI) and normalised difference water index (NDWI) were found to be more effective in detecting leaf water status compared to greenness based indices (normalised difference vegetation index and nitrogen reflectance index). This is because NDWI and WI respond to short term changes in water content of leaves. Overall, the performance of triticale showed a good adaptation to semi-arid conditions. The evaluation of δ13C and δ18O as screening traits for potential yield and water use efficiency under drought conditions produced interesting results. The findings showed that, Δ13C was positive and strongly related to grain yield and thus has potential to be used as a surrogate for grain yield in triticale under water stress. We also found a negative relationship between Δ13C and intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEintrinsic), which suggests that breeding for higher WUEintrinsic in triticale may not necessarily yield the desired improved grain yield. Measured grain Δ13C and flag leaf Δ13C suggested minimum contribution of pre-anthesis assimilates to grain filling under water stress, contrary to what is reported in literature. However, for concrete conclusions on the source of assimilates to the grains under drought


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Page publiée le 8 décembre 2017, mise à jour le 4 novembre 2018