Genetic variation in pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Mill sp.) in response to successive cycles of water stress
Kimani, P. M
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Four pigeon pea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Mill sp.] cultivars were studied during two cycles of development of water stress and recovery. During these two cycles the genetic variation in vegetative development, leaf water potential, relative water content, photosynthesis, and stomatal conductance was followed. Plants were grown in a greenhouse and irrigated every seventh day. On two occasions (30 days and 80 days from sowing) water was withheld for 13 days in one group of plants and 16 days in another. Control plants were irrigated as usual. The four cultivars differed in their response to drought, with ICPL 215 being the most tolerant cultivar. In the plants exposed to the 13-day water stress, the first stress cycle resulted in preconditioning of plants such that higher values for carbon dioxide exchange rate and relative water content were observed in the second stress cycle. The longer stress period (16 days) resulted in some damage to the photosynthetic capacity and in a slow recovery rate in both cycles. During the second drought cycle the plants retained a water content above the critical value, possibly due to osmotic adjustment. It seems that water status parameters, especially relative water content, may serve as indicators of drought tolerance in pigeon pea varieties and may be useful in breeding programs for cultivation of pigeon pea under semiarid conditions.