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A novel method for irrigating plants, tracking water use, and imposing water deficits in controlled environments

Authors
  • Cichello, Alex
  • Bruch, Austin
  • Earl, Hugh J.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Frontiers in Plant Science
Publisher
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Aug 29, 2023
Volume
14
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2023.1201102
Source
Frontiers
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Plant Science
  • Methods
License
Green

Abstract

The study of genomic control of drought tolerance in crops requires techniques to impose well defined and consistent levels of drought stress and efficiently measure single-plant water use for hundreds of experimental units over timescales of several months. Traditional gravimetric methods are extremely labor intensive or require expensive technology, and are subject to other errors. This study demonstrates a low-cost, passive, bottom-watered system that is easily scaled for high-throughput phenotyping. The soil water content in the pots is controlled by altering the water table height in an underlying wicking bed via a float valve. The resulting soil moisture profile is then maintained passively as water withdrawn by the plant is replaced by upward movement of water from the wicking bed, which is fed from a reservoir via the float valve. The single-plant water use can be directly measured over time intervals from one to several days by observing the water level in the reservoir. Using this method, four different drought stress levels were induced in pots containing soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.), producing four statistically distinct groups for shoot dry weight and seed yield, as well as clear treatment effects for other relevant parameters, including root:shoot dry weight ratio, pod number, cumulative water use, and water use efficiency. This system has a broad range of applications, and should increase feasibility of high-throughput phenotyping efforts for plant drought tolerance traits.

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