• Water deficit is one of the world’s major constraints in agriculture and will aggravate
    in the future. Banana (Musa spp.) is an important crop that needs vast amounts of
    water for optimal production. The International Transit Center of Bioversity International
    holds the world’s biggest collection of banana biodiversity (>1,500 accessions). The
    long-term aim of this research is to evaluate the potential within this collection for
    climate smart agricultural usage. Therefore, we developed a phenotyping setup under
    controlled environmental conditions and we selected 32 representatives of the Musa
    biodiversity (29 cultivars and 3 wild relatives) for evaluation. The best performing
    genotypes accumulated six to seven times more biomass than the least performing.
    Eight genotypes (five ABB, one AAB, and two AAA) invest under osmotic stress
    significantly more in root growth than in leaf growth. We predict therefore that these
    genotypes have potential for high productivity under rain fed conditions with a short
    dry season. To gain more insight in the transpiration physiology, we gravimetrically
    monitored individual plant transpiration over the diurnal period. All analyzed genotypes
    showed a marked reduction in transpiration rate in the afternoon. Moreover, the timing
    of this onset, as well as its impact on total transpiration, was genotype dependent. This
    phenomenon was more pronounced in 13 genotypes (eight ABB, two AAB, two AA, one
    BB). Banana is a crop originating from the humid tropics and has developed a strong
    root pressure to maintain an efficient water and nutrient transport even under saturated
    relative humidity conditions. Therefore, we hypothesize that the diurnal transpiration
    decline contributes to a higher water use efficiency without compromising the nutrient
    transport. Of the eight genotypes that had the best growth under osmotic stress, all
    analyzed ABB cultivars have a lower maximal transpiration rate, keep this maximal
    transpiration for a shorter time and therefore consume less water per day. We conclude
    that lab models are very useful to study the biodiversity and to identify different traits
    that contribute to a better drought tolerance/avoidance. We encourage researchers
    investigating other crops to start exploring their collections.

  • Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement, Division of Crop Biotechnics, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium



    Copyright: published: 26 March 2019 doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00352. Copyright © 2019

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