Transpiration response and growth in pearl millet parental lines and hybrids bred for contrasting rainfall environments

Susan Medina, S. K. Gupta, Vincent Vadez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Under conditions of high vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and soil drying, restricting transpiration is an important avenue to gain efficiency in water use. The question we raise in this article is whether breeding for agro-ecological environments that differ for the rainfall have selected for traits that control plant water use. These are measured in pearl millet materials bred for zones varying in rainfall (8 combinations of parent and F1-hybrids, 18 F1-hybrids and then 40 F1-hybrids). In all cases, we found an agro-ecological variation in the slope of the transpiration response to increasing VPD, and parental line variation in the transpiration response to soil drying within hybrids/parent combinations. The hybrids adapted to lower rainfall had higher transpiration response curves than those from the highest rainfall zones, but showed no variation in how transpiration responded to soil drying. The genotypes bred for lower rainfall zones showed lower leaf area, dry matter, thicker leaves, root development, and exudation, than the ones bred for high rainfall zone when grown in the low VPD environment of the greenhouse, but there was no difference in their root length neither on the root/shoot index in these genotypes. By contrast, when grown under high VPD conditions outdoors, the lower rainfall hybrids had the highest leaf, tiller, and biomass development. Finally, under soil drying the genotypes from the lower rainfall accumulated less biomass than the ones from higher rainfall zone, and so did the parental lines compared to the hybrids. These differences in the transpiration response and growth clearly showed that breeding for different agro-ecological zones also bred for different genotype strategies in relation to traits related to plant water use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1846
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 30 Oct 2017


  • Adaptation
  • Environment
  • FTSW threshold
  • Growth
  • Leaf development
  • Pearl millet
  • Rainfall
  • VPD response


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