Different mechanisms of adaptation to cyclic water stress in two South Australian bread wheat cultivars

Ali Izanloo, Anthony G. Condon, Peter Langridge, Mark Tester*, Thorsten Schnurbusch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


In the South Australian wheat belt, cyclic drought is a frequent event represented by intermittent periods of rainfall which can occur around anthesis and post-anthesis in wheat. Three South Australian bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars, Excalibur, Kukri, and RAC875, were evaluated in one greenhouse and two growth-room experiments. In the first growth-room experiment, where plants were subjected to severe cyclic water-limiting conditions, RAC875 and Excalibur (drought-tolerant) showed significantly higher grain yield under cyclic water availability compared to Kukri (drought-susceptible), producing 44% and 18% more grain compared to Kukri, respectively. In the second growth-room experiment, where plants were subjected to a milder drought stress, the differences between cultivars were less pronounced, with only RAC875 showing significantly higher grain yield under the cyclic water treatment. Grain number per spike and the percentage of aborted tillers were the major components that affected yield under cyclic water stress. Excalibur and RAC875 adopted different morpho-physiological traits and mechanisms to reduce water stress. Excalibur was most responsive to cyclic water availability and showed the highest level of osmotic adjustment (OA), high stomatal conductance, lowest ABA content, and rapid recovery from stress under cyclic water stress. RAC875 was more conservative and restrained, with moderate OA, high leaf waxiness, high chlorophyll content, and slower recovery from stress. Within this germplasm, the capacity for osmotic adjustment was the main physiological attribute associated with tolerance under cyclic water stress which enabled plants to recover from water deficit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3327-3346
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyclic drought
  • Osmotic adjustment
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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