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Keywords:

  • Abiotic stress;
  • basal disease resistance;
  • biotic stress;
  • plant fitness;
  • transpiration efficiency;
  • water limitation

ABSTRACT

Plants that constitutively express otherwise inducible disease resistance traits often suffer a depressed seed yield in the absence of a challenge by pathogens. This has led to the view that inducible disease resistance is indispensable, ensuring that minimal resources are diverted from growth, reproduction and abiotic stress tolerance. The Arabidopsis genotype C24 has enhanced basal resistance, which was shown to be caused by permanent expression of normally inducible salicylic acid (SA)-regulated defences. However, the seed yield of C24 was greatly enhanced in comparison to disease-resistant mutants that display identical expression of SA defences. Under both water-replete and -limited conditions, C24 showed no difference and increased seed yield, respectively, in comparison with pathogen-susceptible genotypes. C24 was the most drought-tolerant genotype and showed elevated water productivity, defined as seed yield per plant per millilitre water consumed, and achieved this by displaying adjustments to both its development and transpiration efficiency (TE). Therefore, constitutive high levels of disease resistance in C24 do not affect drought tolerance, seed yield and seed viability. This study demonstrates that it will be possible to combine traits that elevate basal disease resistance and improve water productivity in crop species, and such traits need not be mutually exclusive.