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Magda Garbowski, Danielle B. Johnston, Cynthia S. Brown
Numerous functional traits, including various root traits, may be important contributors to plant performance under drought. However, root traits are rarely considered in native plant development. In this study we assessed whether cultivars of the perennial grass, Elymus trachycaulus (Slender wheatgrass) developed for drought differ in (a) performance, (b) aboveground and belowground traits, and (c) trait responses to drought from other cultivars and wild accessions. We also assessed trait plasticity and identified which suites of traits are related to a plant’s ability to maintain aboveground biomass productivity under water deficit (i.e., drought resistance). Drought cultivars did not outperform other accessions in biomass production, nor did they clearly differ from other accessions in traits related to drought-coping strategies. We found root diameter to vary little between moisture conditions and observed few differences among trait relationships between moisture conditions. A primary axis of functional variation related to resource acquisition (plant height, root length, root tips) was associated with aboveground biomass production in both control and drought conditions. As “drought cultivars” of E. trachycaulus did not outperform other accessions under drought conditions and do not appear to possess superior traits for drought resistance, identifying new sources of the species for restoration of drought-prone systems may be warranted.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program