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Vines. © Montpellier SupAgro, Florent Pantin

Adapting to climate change: selecting grapevines with reduced nighttime transpiration

Researchers from INRA and Montpellier SupAgro have found that nighttime water loss in grapevines can be significantly curbed by selecting certain varieties. Up to now, this avenue has remained unexplored for all species of plants. These exciting new findings open the door to a new selection strategy to help grapevines better tolerate drought.

Updated on 10/06/2016
Published on 09/28/2016

In light of climate change, selecting crops that are able to produce greater biomass with less water is a key challenge. Indeed, there is a functional compromise between the assimilation of carbon during photosynthesis and water loss due to transpiration. At the origin of this dual function are stomata, a myriad of microscopic pores on the surface of plant leaves. When the stomata open to accelerate the diffusion of carbon dioxide to chloroplasts, where the synthesis of organic matter begins, they also let water escape into the atmosphere. The result? During the day, stomata prevent the plant from reducing transpiration without altering photosynthesis, and thus plant growth. But what about nighttime transpiration?

Choosing varieties with reduced nighttime transpiration

At night, stomata only close partially, leading to an apparently useless loss of water since photosynthesis can’t happen without light. The researchers at INRA and Montpellier SupAgro found that water loss can be curbed without altering plant growth by choosing varieties with reduced nighttime transpiration.
Scientists studied the behaviour of some 200 descendants of a cross between two very popular varieties in Mediterranean regions, Syrah and Grenache, both in controlled conditions on a phenotyping platform (PhenoArch) and in natural conditions. The researchers identified regions of their genome associated both with reduced nighttime transpiration and steady growth. Nighttime transpiration amounts to approximately 15% of daytime transpiration. The use of certain plants could cut nighttime transpiration by up to half.

These findings are paving the way to improved varieties with higher water-use efficiency, a major challenge when it comes to adapting agriculture to climate change. They could also help scientists pinpoint key regions of the genomes that play a role in these processes.

Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

  • Thierry Simonneau (33 (0)4 99 61 27 52) Joint Research Unit for Ecophysiology of Plants under Environmental Stress
Press Relations:
INRA News Office (33 (0)1 42 75 91 86)
Associated Division(s):
Environment and Agronomy, Plant Biology and Breeding
Associated Centre(s):
Montpellier

Reference

Coupel-Ledru A, Lebon E, Christophe A, Gallo A, Gago P, Pantin F, Doligez A, Simonneau T. Reduced nighttime transpiration is a relevant breeding target for high water-use efficiency in grapevine PNAS 2016 113 (32) 8963-8968; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1600826113