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The effect of water stress on photosynthetic carbon metabolism in four species grown under field conditions


R. C. Leegood, Robert Hill Institute, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


Abstract. The effect of gradually-developing water-stress has been studied in Lupinus albus L., Helianthus annuus L., Vitis vinifera cv. Rosaki and Eucalyptus globulus Labill. Water was withheld and diurnal rhythms were investigated 4–8d later, when the predawn water deficit was more negative than in watered plants, and the stomata closed almost completely early during the photoperiod. The contribution of ‘stomatal’ and ‘non-stomatal’ components to the decrease of photosynthetic rate was investigated by (1) comparing the changes of the rate of photosynthesis in air with the changes of stomatal conductance and (2) measuring photosynthetic capacity in saturating irradiance and 15% CO2. Three species (lupin, eucalyptus and sunflower) showed larger changes of stomatal conductance than photosynthesis in air, and showed little or no decrease of photosynthetic capacity in saturating CO2. Photosynthesis in air also recovered fully overnight after watering the plants in the evening. In grapevines, stomatal conductance and photosynthesis in air changed in parallel, there was a marked decrease of photosynthetic capacity, and photosynthesis and stomatal conductance did not recover overnight after watering water-stressed plants. Relative water content remained above 90% in grapevine. We conclude that non-stomatal components do not play a significant role in lupins, sunflower or eucalyptus, but could in grapevine. The effect of water-stress on partitioning of photosynthate was investigated by measuring the amounts of sucrose and starch in leaves during a diurnal rhythm, and by measuring the partitioning of 14C-carbon dioxide between sucrose and starch. In all four species, starch was depleted in water-stressed leaves but sucrose was maintained at amounts similar to, or higher than, those in watered plants. Partitioning into sucrose was increased in lupins and eucalyptus, and remained unchanged in grapevine and sunflower. It is concluded that water-stressed leaves in all four species maintain high levels of soluble sugars in their leaves, despite having lower rates of field photosynthesis, decreased rates of export, and low amounts of starch in their leaves.