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Does Water Deficit Stress Promote Ethylene Synthesis by Intact Plants? 1

  • Page W. Morgan
  • Chuan-Jin He
  • Jan A. De Greef
  • Maurice P. De Proft
Publication Date
Dec 01, 1990
  • Agricultural Science


The effect of plant water deficit on ethylene production by intact plants was tested in three species, beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and miniature rose (Rosa hybrida L., cv Bluesette). Compressed air was passed through glass, plant-containing cuvettes, ethylene collected on chilled columns, and subsequently assayed by gas chromatography. The usual result was that low water potential did not promote ethylene production. When plants were subjected to cessation of irrigation, ethylene production decreased on a per plant or dry weight basis of calculation. No significant promotion of ethylene production above control levels was detected when water deficit-treated bean or cotton plants were rewatered. The one exception to this was for cotton subjected to a range of water deficits, plants subjected to deficits of −1.4 to −1.6 MPa exhibited a transient increase of ethylene production of 40 to 50% above control levels at 24 or 48 hours. Ethylene was collected from intact leaves while plants developed a water deficit stress of −2.9 megapascals after rewatering, and no significant promotion of ethylene production was detected. The shoots of fruited, flowering cotton plants produced less ethylene when subjected to cessation of irrigation. In contrast, the ability of bench drying of detached leaves to increase ethylene production several-fold was verified for both beans and cotton. The data indicate that detached leaves react differently to rapid drying than intact plants react to drying of the soil with regard to ethylene production. This result suggests the need for additional attention to ethylene as a complicating factor in experiments employing excised plant parts and the need to verify the relevance of shock stresses in model systems.

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