The Science Seminar Series: February 7, 2013
Developing sustainable water-use solutions for agriculture: manipulating crop physiology to increase drought tolerance
Dr. Diane Rowland
Department of Crop and Soil Science
University of Florida
Time: 4:00 -5:00pm
Water scarcity is becoming the critical limitation to sustainable agricultural yields worldwide. However, breeding for drought tolerant crops has proven extremely challenging given the complex traits involved in susceptibility to water stress as well as the diverse states that drought can encompass. It is difficult to define drought tolerance when this condition can take the form of season long severe drought to punctuated periods of low water availability throughout the growing season. Another tool that may prove useful in developing high water-use efficient cropping systems is to capitalize on manipulating crop physiology to better acclimate and sustain crop response to low water during the growing season. Several management techniques have been found to elicit beneficial drought tolerant responses in crop species and these are being tested for their applicability in the southern US cropping environment. These include the use of conservation tillage as well as a regulated deficit irrigation treatment we term “primed acclimation” (PA). PA involves the use of mild water deficits during vegetative crop growth and then the restoration of full irrigation during reproductive development. Conservation tillage has many benefits including increasing soil organic matter, water holding capacity, and plant available water. PA has been shown to increase rooting architecture, water-use efficiency, and drought tolerance. The implementation of these management tools will be discussed as well as their impact on basic crop physiological processes.