Fungi may help drought-stressed wheat

December 17, 2015

Scientists at Aarhus University have discovered that fungi associated with plant roots may improve growth and yield of drought-stressed wheat.

Water scarcity has a negative impact on wheat production. As a consequence of exposure to drought, crops show poorer growth and lower yield. This is a serious problem as the predicted increase in frequency of extreme climate episodes will lead to multiple drought conditions during crop growth which in turn will reduce the yield of wheat, one of the world's most important foods.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that drought stress in crops will become increasingly serious in the future. Globally, wheat yield is only 30-60 percent of its potential.

Fungi may help

A specific group of useful fungi - the so-called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AM fungi) -- may be able to help alleviate drought stress in wheat. These fungi live in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. Recent research from Aarhus University demonstrates that the fungi can improve growth and yield in some wheat varieties under drought stress.

Previous experiments have demonstrated that this symbiotic relationship involves a mutual exchange of nutrients between the crop and the fungus. The fungus provides inorganic nutrients, in particular phosphorus, to the plant. Furthermore, the fungi help crops fight biotic stress factors such as diseases and pests.

Scientists from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University have recently examined whether the association with AM fungi can alleviate drought stress in wheat.

"We know that these fungi are important in relation to the absorption of nutrients and water as well as for tolerance to diseases, but what about extreme conditions such as droughts and heat? We examined if it is possible to increase wheat's tolerance to drought by exploiting the plants' symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi," says Associate Professor Sabine Ravnskov from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University.

Drought stress leads to water deficits in crops, which affects crop growth and development and a number of metabolic processes in the plants, such as photosynthesis and primary metabolism

Different responses in different wheat cultivars

The scientists used two different varieties of spring wheat. One was Vinjett, which is drought-tolerant, and the other was '1110' (Kloka WM1353 from IPK, Gattersleben, Germany), a drought-sensitive cultivar. The plants were divided into two groups; one group was given sufficient water and the other group was exposed to drought stress. Half of the plants in each group were inoculated with AM fungi and the other half were grown without the fungi.

The two cultivars of wheat reacted differently to drought stress and inoculation with AM fungi. The drought sensitive cultivar '1110' benefited from the AM fungi under drought conditions, resulting in increased biomass, improved photosynthesis and improved nitrogen-use. Under drought conditions and without useful AM fungi, the drought tolerant wheat cultivar performed better.
-end-
Read more about the beneficial relationship between AM fungi and crops here.

Read the scientific article 'Changes in carbon and nitrogen allocation, growth and grain yield induced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) subjected to a period of water deficit" in the scientific journal Plant Growth Regulation.

For further information please contact:

Bernd Wollenweber
Associate Professor
bernd.wollenweber@agro.au.dk
8715-8369
Department of Agroecology

Sabine Ravnskov
Associate Professor
8715-8136, mobile:2228-3313
Department of Agroecology

Aarhus University

Related Drought Articles from Brightsurf:

Redefining drought in the US corn belt
As the climate trends warmer and drier, global food security increasingly hinges on crops' ability to withstand drought.

The cost of drought in Italy
Drought-induced economic losses ranged in Italy between 0.55 and 1.75 billion euros over the period 2001-2016, and droughts caused significant collateral effects not only on the agricultural sector, but also on food manufacturing industries.

Consequences of the 2018 summer drought
The drought that hit central and northern Europe in summer 2018 had serious effects on crops, forests and grasslands.

Songbirds reduce reproduction to help survive drought
New research from the University of Montana suggests tropical songbirds in both the Old and New Worlds reduce reproduction during severe droughts, and this - somewhat surprisingly -- may actually increase their survival rates.

Predicting drought in the American West just got more difficult
A new, USC-led study of more than 1,000 years of North American droughts and global conditions found that forecasting a lack of precipitation is rarely straightforward.

Where is the water during a drought?
In low precipitation periods - where and how is the limited available water distributed and what possibilities are there for improving retention in the soil and the landscape?

What does drought mean for endangered California salmon?
Droughts threatens California's endangered salmon population -- but pools that serve as drought refuges could make the difference between life and death for these vulnerable fish.

With shrinking snowpack, drought predictability melting away
New research from CU Boulder suggests that during the 21st century, our ability to predict drought using snow will literally melt away.

An evapotranspiration deficit drought index to detect drought impacts on ecosystems
The difference between actual and potential evapotranspiration, technically termed a standardized evapotranspiration deficit drought index (SEDI), can more sensitively capture the biological changes of ecosystems in response to the dynamics of drought intensity, compared with indices based on precipitation and temperature.

Sesame yields stable in drought conditions
Research shows adding sesame to cotton-sorghum crop rotations is possible in west Texas

Read More: Drought News and Drought Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.