Studies With Triazoles to Alleviate Drought Stress in GreenHouse-Grown Maize (Zea mays) Seedlings
In semi-arid environments, dry-land farming often exposes crops to drought stress. Although some plant species are well adapted to drought, most crops are not. Drought can reduce plant populations and limit growth and development in ways that have serious yield consequences. Planting at the beginning of the wet season, when rainfalls are often sporadic and unreliable, can expose young maize seedlings to severe drought. Through the use of plant growth regulators (PGR), maize seedlings can perhaps be altered to elicit responses that mimic drought adaptation mechanisms. A series of studies conducted in the laboratory and greenhouse looked at the response of maize seedlings (two hybrids that differed in their reported drought sensitivity) to severe drought and to PGR applications with or without drought. Results showed that drought stress altered plant morphology and key physiological parameters. Applications of three triazoles (paclobutrazol, uniconazole and tetraconazole) altered morphology and physiology in ways that might impart drought resistance. Paclobutrazol and uniconazole increased root:shoot ratio in laboratory studies and in the greenhouse. When compared to non-triazole-treated controls, uniconazole and paclobutrazol treatments caused water conservation in earlier stages of drought stress, and therefore afforded increased transpiration (and presumably less stress) at later stages. Uniconazole and tetraconazole increased photosynthesis of well-watered plants. Proline content was increased to a greater degree by these same two triazoles under drought stress conditions. It is hoped that knowledge obtained from these studies can be extended to drought-prone areas where maize dry-land farming is practiced.