• Viewpoint: Selection for improved drought response in cool-season grasses

      Johnson, D. A.; Asay, K. H. (Society for Range Management, 1993-05-01)
      Water limits the establishment, growth, and production of cool-season grasses on semiarid rangelands, and plant improvement programs for these areas must be capable of screening breeding lines for response to drought. Although many techniques to evaluate various morphological and physiological characteristics have been proposed, few have been used successfully in plant breeding programs. Consequently, a need exists to identify and develop rapid, reliable screening techniques that can assess integrated plant response to drought in large plant populations. Improved seedling emergence has been achieved in Russian wildrye [Psathyrostachys juncea (Fischer) Nevski] by selecting for emergence from a deep seeding depth and long coleoptiles. Water uptake by roots is critical, and screening for enhanced seedling root growth in cool-season grasses offers considerable promise. In spite of the important role that stomatal control has in regulating plant water loss, limited success has been achieved in incorporating desirable stomatal characteristics into improved grass cultivars. Although osmotic adjustment appears beneficial in some crop species, more research is needed before cool-season grasses should be selected based on osmotic adjustment. Selection for improved water-use efficiency in cool-season grasses based on carbon isotope discrimination is a promising approach. Successful incorporation of these various traits into improved cool-season grass cultivars necessitates close cooperation between breeders and physiologists.