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  Eur.J.Hortic.Sci. 82 (1) 31-37 | DOI: 10.17660/eJHS.2017/82.1.4
ISSN 1611-4426 print and 1611-4434 online | © ISHS 2017 | European Journal of Horticultural Science | Original article

Water withholding contributes to winter hardiness in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)

Zhihui Chang1, Bihui Sun1 and Deying Li2
1Forestry College, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
2Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108, USA

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is an important turf and forage species in mild temperate regions. In cold regions, it is vulnerable to winter kill. The objective of this study was to investigate possible associations between cold tolerance and morphological traits that regulate water movement in perennial ryegrass. Cultivars ‘Uno’, ‘Brightstar SLT’, ‘Fiesta’, ‘Evening Shade’, ‘NK-200’, and ‘Linn’, representing different levels of cold tolerance and winter hardiness, were used in the study. Previously reported cold tolerant cultivars, ‘Uno’ and ‘Brightstar SLT’, showed smaller but higher density of stomata than cold sensitive cultivars such as ‘Linn’ and ‘NK-200’. In addition, cold tolerant cultivars had either higher density of short cells or higher density of hairs in the epidermis compared to the cold sensitive cultivars. Water wetting angles on the upper epidermis also indicated that ‘Uno’ had a better protection from water loss than cold sensitive cultivars, especially ‘Linn’. The water loss rate (% per day) was significantly higher for ‘Linn’ than ‘Uno’, which were 3.39 and 2.27, respectively. Simulated wind desiccation combined with freezing at -10°C after cold acclimation further showed that stronger water withholding ability contributed to the increased freezing tolerance. The results suggest that including water conserving morphologies in the selection process may help breeding for freeze tolerant perennial ryegrass.

Keywords abiotic stress, cold tolerance, low temperature, transpiration, turfgrass, winter kill

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • Winter kill in perennial ryegrass can be a result of a direct exposure to low temperature, desiccation, suffocation under ice and snow, and toxic gas.
What are the new findings?
  • Stomata size/density, hair density, and epicuticular wax are linked to water conservation, which in turn affected low temperature kill in perennial ryegrass.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • Breeders may include those water conservation traits in future selection for winter hardiness in perennial ryegrass.

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Received: 11 November 2016 | Accepted: 11 January 2017 | Published: 23 February 2017 | Available online: 23 February 2017

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