Inhomogeneous photosynthetic activity has been reported to occur in drought-stressed leaves. In addition, it has been suggested that these water stress-induced nonuniformities in photosynthesis are caused by "patchy" stomatal closure and that the phenomenon may have created the illusion of a nonstomatal component to the inhibition of photosynthesis. Because these earlier studies were performed with nonacclimated growth chamber-grown plants, we sought to determine whether such "patches" existed in drought-treated, field-grown plants or in chamber-grown plants that had been acclimated to low leaf water potentials (ψleaf). Cotton (Cossypium hirsutum L.) was grown in the field and subjected to drought by withholding irrigation and rain from 24 d after planting. The distribution of photosynthesis, which may reflect the stomatal aperture distribution in a heterobaric species such as cotton, was assayed by autoradiography after briefly exposing attached leaves of field-grown plants to 14CO2. A homogeneous distribution of radioactive photosynthate was evident even at the lowest ψleaf of -1.34 MPa. "Patchiness" could, however, be induced by uprooting the plant and allowing the shoot to air dry for 6 to 8 min. In parallel studies, growth chamber-grown plants were acclimated to drought by withholding irrigation for three 5-d drought cycles interspersed with irrigation. This drought acclimation lowered the ψleaf value at which control rates of photosynthesis could be sustained by approximately 0.7 MPa and was accompanied by a similar decline in the ψleaf at which patchiness first appeared. Photosynthetic inhomogeneities in chamber-grown plants that were visible during moderate water stress and ambient levels of CO2 could be largely removed with elevated CO2 levels (3000 μL L-1), suggesting that they were stomatal in nature. However, advanced dehydration (less than approximately 2.0 MPa) resulted in "patches" that could not be so removed and were probably caused by nonstomatal factors. The demonstration that patches do not exist in drought-treated, field-grown cotton and that the presence of patches in chamber-grown plants can be altered by treatments that cause an acclimation of photosynthesis leads us to conclude that spatial heterogeneities in photosynthesis probably do not occur frequently under natural drought conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science