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Title: Morphological and physiological responses of cowpea (Vigna Unguiculata (l) Walp.) cultivars to induced water stress and phosphorus nutrition
Authors: G.A., Agenbag
Chiulele, Rogério Marcos
Keywords: Cowpea
Vigna unguiculata (l) Walp.)
Water stress
Phosphorus nutrition
Issue Date: 21-Nov-2003
Publisher: University of Stellenbosch
Abstract: Cowpeas are produced under low and irregular rainfall in most of arid and semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Growth and yield are therefore reduced due to the occurrence of water stress during the growing season. Knowledge of the responses and adaptive mechanisms of cowpeas to water stress may help to improve the management practices for these areas. Therefore, three glasshouse experiments were conducted at Welgevallen Experimental Farm of the University of Stellenbosch to test the responses of two cowpea cultivars to water stress. In the first experiment, physiological responses were used to identify those physiological parameters, which can be used to distinguish between drought tolerant and susceptible cowpea cultivars. In the second experiment, some of the identified physiological parameters together with some morphological growth responses, yield and grain protein content of the same two cowpea cultivars were used to identify which is the more tolerant cultivar. In the third experiment, the hypothesis that increased phosphorus supply may improve the tolerance of cowpea plants to water stress and their ability of recover from the stress was tested. The results showed that water stress affected water relations, morphological growth parameters, yield and grain protein content, but increasing P supply reduced the effect of water stress and promoted more rapid recovery after re-watering. Water relations were affected by water stress because it reduced relative water content, which resulted in reduced water potential and increased leaf diffusive resistance and proline accumulation. Morphological growth responses and yields were affected because water stress reduced the leaf area, which resulted in reduced biomass production and seed yield. Lower leaf area under water stress was the result of the reduced number of leaves and leaf expansion rate, but the number of leaves was the most important parameter. Reduced seed yield was due to reduced number of pods. The responses of the two cultivars tested were different. AB Wit, which performed better under well-watered conditions, was more affected by water stress due to its larger leaf area that resulted in excessive water loss by transpiration. ACH14 was more drought tolerant than AB Wit due to a combination of a more rapid stomatal closure and proline accumulation, which induced osmotic adjustment, and which in turn helped to maintain higher water potentials. The increased P supply reduced the effect of the water stress. High-P level plants showed higher root growth, which resulted in more water uptake and larger leaf area during the water stress period, and after re-watering these plants recovered.
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