Pre-drought priming sustains grain development under post-anthesis drought stress by regulating the growth hormones in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.).Planta 2017; 246(3):509-524P
Drought stress during grain filling is the most yield-damaging to wheat. Pre-drought priming facilitated the wheat plants to sustain grain development against the post-anthesis drought stress by modulating the levels of growth hormones. Post-anthesis drought stress substantially reduces grain yield in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) due to impaired grain development associated with imbalanced levels of growth hormones. To investigate whether pre-drought priming could sustain grain development in wheat by regulating favorable levels of growth hormones under post-anthesis drought conditions, the plants of a drought-sensitive (Yangmai-16) and drought-tolerant (Luhan-7) wheat cultivar were exposed to a moderate drought stress during tillering (Feekes 2 stage) for priming, and then, a subsequent severe drought stress was applied from 7 to 14 days after anthesis. The results showed that drought-stressed plants of both cultivars showed a decline in flag leaf water potential, chlorophyll contents, photosynthetic rate, grain size initiation, and grain filling as compared to well-watered plants; however, decline in these traits was less in pre-drought primed (PD) plants than in nonprimed (ND) plants. Under drought stress, the PD plants regulated higher concentrations of zeatin and zeatin riboside, indole-3-acetic acid, gibberellins, and lower abscisic acid content in grains, resulting in higher endosperm cell division and expansion, grain size initiation, grain-filling rate and duration, and finally higher grain dry weights as compared to ND plants. The PD plants of both cultivars showed higher potential to tolerate the post-anthesis drought stress, but more effect was displayed by drought-tolerant cultivar. From the achieved results, it was concluded that pre-drought priming facilitated the wheat plants to sustain higher grain development and yield against the most yield-damaging post-anthesis drought stress by modulating the levels of growth hormones.