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Contrasting Drought Tolerance in Two Apple Cultivars Associated with Difference in Leaf Morphology and Anatomy

DOI: 10.4236/ajps.2019.105051, PP. 709-722

Keywords: Apple, Drought Stress, Photosynthesis, Water Use Efficiency, Leaf Anatomy

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Apple is one of the most important fruit trees in temperate zones, and is cultivated widely throughout the world. Drought stress affects the normal growth of apple tree, and further affects fruit yield and quality. The present study examined the effects of drought on photosynthesis and water use efficiency (WUE) of two apple cultivars (Honeycrisp and Yanfu 3) that differ in drought tolerance. The results showed that the photosynthetic rate decreased in response to drought stress for both cultivars, with significant differences in intensity. Values for net photosynthetic rate (Pn) in stressed Yanfu 3 remained significantly lower than in the controls, while, for Honeycrisp, only a slight drop in photosynthesis. Similarly, stomatal conductance (Gs), intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci), transpiration rate (Tr) were markedly reduced in Yanfu 3 under drought stress. However, Honeycrisp showed only minor changes. Under drought stress, the contents of Chl a, Chl b and Chl t in Yanfu 3 were all decreased significantly compared with the control. However, little difference in Honeycrisp was noted between stressed plants and controls. Values for WUE in stressed Yanfu 3 remained higher than in the controls from day 3 until the end of the experiment, while no significant difference was observed in Honeycrisp. Furthermore, Honeycrisp also exhibited superior physiological traits, as indicated by its anatomical and morphological characteristics. Therefore, we conclude that the superior drought tolerance of Honeycrisp was due to its anatomical and morphological characteristics, which possibly contributed to the maintenance of higher photosynthetic capacity than Yanfu 3.


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