Intraspecific differences in long-term drought tolerance in perennial ryegrass
Cyriac, Daliya; Hofmann, Rainer; Stewart, Alan; Sathish, P.; Winefield, Christopher S.; Moot, Derrick J.
Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) is the most important pasture grass species in temperate regions of the world. However, its growth is restricted in summer dry environments. Germplasm screening can be used to identify accessions or individual plants for incorporation into breeding programs for drought tolerance. We selected nine perennial ryegrass accessions from different global origins and from a range of climatic and environmental conditions. In addition, the perennial ryegrass cultivar 'Grasslands Impact' was chosen as a reference. The accessions were grown for 360 days in a controlled environment through six consecutive drought stress and recovery cycles. We observed intraspecific differences in drought stress responsiveness for shoot biomass and survival from the third stress cycle. An accession from Norway had 50% more shoot dry matter than the next best-performing accession after six drought cycles. Compared with the reference cultivar 'Grasslands Impact', shoot dry matter of the accession from Norway was more than seven times higher after six drought cycles, indicating superior performance of this ecotype under drought stress. Drought tolerance was characterized by osmotic adjustment and higher relative leaf water content at low soil moisture levels. Furthermore, the findings of this study identify solute potential as an early predictor of drought stress tolerance. These intraspecific differences can be used in breeding programs for the development of drought-tolerant perennial ryegrass cultivars.... [Show full abstract]