The impact of drought on wheat leaf cuticle properties.BMC Plant Biol. 2017 05 08; 17(1):85.BP
The plant cuticle is the outermost layer covering aerial tissues and is composed of cutin and waxes. The cuticle plays an important role in protection from environmental stresses and glaucousness, the bluish-white colouration of plant surfaces associated with cuticular waxes, has been suggested as a contributing factor in crop drought tolerance. However, the cuticle structure and composition is complex and it is not clear which aspects are important in determining a role in drought tolerance. Therefore, we analysed residual transpiration rates, cuticle structure and epicuticular wax composition under well-watered conditions and drought in five Australian bread wheat genotypes, Kukri, Excalibur, Drysdale, RAC875 and Gladius, with contrasting glaucousness and drought tolerance.
Significant differences were detected in residual transpiration rates between non-glaucous and drought-sensitive Kukri and four glaucous and drought-tolerant lines. No simple correlation was found between residual transpiration rates and the level of glaucousness among glaucous lines. Modest differences in the thickness of cuticle existed between the examined genotypes, while drought significantly increased thickness in Drysdale and RAC875. Wax composition analyses showed various amounts of C31 β-diketone among genotypes and increases in the content of alkanes under drought in all examined wheat lines.
The results provide new insights into the relationship between drought stress and the properties and structure of the wheat leaf cuticle. In particular, the data highlight the importance of the cuticle's biochemical makeup, rather than a simple correlation with glaucousness or stomatal density, for water loss under limited water conditions.