Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 25, Number 1, January-March 2005
Page(s) 151 - 158
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 25 (2005) 151-158
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2004066

Leaf dynamics and crop water status throughout the growing cycle of durum wheat crops grown in two contrasted water budget conditions

Nadine Brisson and Marie-Laure Casals

Climate, Soil and Environment, INRA, Agroparc, 84914 Avignon Cedex 9, France

(Received 15 September 2003; accepted 15 November 2004)

Abstract - Leaf and crop water measurements were analysed dynamically throughout the cycle of two crops of durum wheat subjected to contrasting conditions of water supply. The objectives were to compare short- and long-term crop reactions to water deficit, based on some hypotheses from the literature. Water status measurements were of the first type and phenological or morphological measurements of the second type. The droughted crop under a rainout shelter received no water between emergence and harvest, while the open-air crop was irrigated. Dynamic plant morphological measurements consisted of leaf area index and specific leaf area, and those characterising plant water status dynamics included predawn leaf water potential, bulk osmotic potential and the ratio of crop water uptake to evaporative demand. Continuous measurement of the surface temperature on the two plots served to calculate a degree-days temperature scale, allowing comparison of the two crops. We found that the droughted crop developed mechanisms of resistance to water deficit: the leaf area index and specific leaf area were reduced (from 6 to 1.5 m2 m-2 and from 300 to 260 cm2 g-1 for the maximum values of, respectively, the LAI and the SLA), the bulk osmotic potential was lower (from -2 to -3 MPa) and the soil layer affected by root uptake was deeper (from 50 to 100 cm) than that of the irrigated crop. The amount of water evapo-transpired by both crops was similar when related to climatic demand. Yet no clear relationship appeared between the specific leaf area index and osmotic potential. Furthermore, there appeared to be a clear difference between the vegetative and reproductive phases of both crops in terms of water functioning. The osmotic potential decreased markedly after anthesis and a peak of water uptake was observed in both crops during the grain-filling phase, which may have been linked to the specific functioning of the flag leaf or the ear. While this study demonstrated the efficiency of drought adaptive features in durum wheat, it also showed that the difference in the water behaviours of two contrasted durum wheat crops could be of the same order of magnitude as the differences between the vegetative and reproductive phases.

Key words: durum wheat / phenology / specific leaf area / osmotic potential / leaf water potential / water uptake / early water stress

Corresponding author: Nadine Brisson

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2005