Yuhan Yang, Xiaolin Ma, Lu Yan, Yingchao Li, Suhan Wei, Zhipeng Teng, Hong Zhang, Wei Tang, Shaobing Peng, Yong Li
Rice (Oryza sativa) production consumes a huge amount of fresh water, and improvement of drought tolerance in rice is important to conserve water resources and to minimize yield loss under drought. However, processes to improve drought tolerance in rice have not been fully explored, and a comparative study between rice and wheat (Triticum aestivum) is an effective method to understand the mechanisms determining drought tolerance capacity. In the present study, we applied short-term drought stress to Shanyou 63 rice and Yannong 19 wheat to create a range of water potentials and investigated the responses of gas exchange, plant hydraulic conductance, and root morphological and anatomical traits to soil drought. We found that photosynthesis in rice was more sensitive to drought stress than that in wheat, which was related to differences in decline of stomatal conductance and plant hydraulic conductance (Kplant). The decline of Kplant under drought was mainly driven by the decrease of soil-root interface hydraulic conductance (Ki) because Ki was more sensitive to drought than root and shoot hydraulic conductance and the soil-root interface contributed to more than 40% of whole plant hydraulic resistance in both crops. Root shrinkage in response to drought was more severe in rice than that in wheat, which explains the larger depression of Ki and Kplant under drought stress in rice. We concluded that the decline of Ki drives the depression of Kplant and photosynthesis in both crops, and the plasticity of root morphology and anatomy is important in determining drought tolerance capacity.