Which way forward in the quest for drought tolerance in perennial ryegrass?


  • C. Matthew
  • A. van der Linden
  • S. Hussain
  • H.S. Easton
  • J.-H B. Hatier
  • D. J. Horne




Pasture moisture stress for "summer" (November to March) was calculated for five main pastoral regions of New Zealand, and 9 or 10 years' weather data were modelled in each case. Amelioration of water deficit with deeper rooting, stronger plant tissue osmotic potential for greater water extraction, or increased photosynthetic water use efficiency (WUE) was also modelled. Regional mean summer moisture deficits ranged from 34 mm in Taranaki to 447 mm in Canterbury. For a 10-cm increase in rooting depth, the model predicted an additional 16 mm water extraction. Increased plant osmotic potential was predicted to only slightly increase water extraction and paradoxically reduce yield. The assumed increase in photosynthetic WUE improved production by 240 kg DM ha-1 for the same water use. Drought tolerance traits exhibited by a range of ryegrass cultivars were measured in a series of glasshouse experiments and the potential to improve New Zealand ryegrass drought tolerance by introgression with germplasm originating from North Africa was assessed. North African germplasm possesses a trait of deep rootedness but has low summer productivity as a soil moisture conservation strategy and a high percentage of tillers flowering, so initial evaluations of this material for suitability for use in New Zealand are not promising. Ryegrass cultivars incorporating germplasm of Spanish origin appear to maintain summer production with enhanced WUE. Keywords: drought tolerance, root depth, Lolium perenne, perennial ryegrass, water deficit







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