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Will intra-specific differences in transpiration efficiency in wheat be maintained in a high CO2 world? A FACE study



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This study evaluates whether the target breeding trait of superior leaf level transpiration efficiency is still appropriate under increasing carbon dioxide levels of a future climate using a semi-arid cropping system as a model. Specifically, we investigated whether physiological traits governing leaf level transpiration efficiency, such as net assimilation rates (Anet), stomatal conductance (gs) or stomatal sensitivity were affected differently between two Triticum aestivum L. cultivars differing in transpiration efficiency (cv. Drysdale, superior; cv. Hartog, low). Plants were grown under Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE, approximately 550 µmol mol−1 or ambient CO2 concentrations (approximately 390 µmol mol−1). Mean Anet (approximately 15% increase) and gs (approximately 25% decrease) were less affected by elevated [CO2] than previously found in FACE-grown wheat (approximately 25% increase and approximately 32% decrease, respectively), potentially reflecting growth in a dry-land cropping system. In contrast to previous FACE studies, analyses of the Ball et al. model revealed an elevated [CO2] effect on the slope of the linear regression by 12% indicating a decrease in stomatal sensitivity to the combination of [CO2], photosynthesis rate and humidity. Differences between cultivars indicated greater transpiration efficiency for Drysdale with growth under elevated [CO2] potentially increasing the response of this trait. This knowledge adds valuable information for crop germplasm improvement for future climates.