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Safety-efficiency trade-offs in the cotton xylem: acclimatization to different soil textures

Wang, Zhongyuan, Xie, Jiangbo, Li, Yan
Journal of Arid Land 2016 v.8 no.3 pp. 443-452
Gossypium herbaceum, acclimation, arid lands, clay, clay soils, cotton, environmental factors, evaporation, leaves, plant available water, plasticity, roots, sandy soils, soil texture, stems, water uptake, xylem vessels
The acclimatization of plant xylem to altered environmental conditions has attracted considerable attention from researchers over several decades. Plants growing in natural environments must seek a balance between water uptake and the water loss of leaves from evaporation. Thus, the adaptation of xylem to different soil textures is important in maintaining plant water balance. In this study, we investigated the xylem changes of cotton (Gossypium herbaceum L.) xylem in sandy, clay and mixed soils. Results showed that soil texture had a significant effect on xylem vessel diameter and length of stems and roots. Compared with G. herbaceum growing in the clay soil, those plants growing in the sandy soil developed narrower and shorter xylem vessels in their roots, and had a higher percentage of narrow vessels in their stems. These changes resulted in a safer (i.e. less vulnerable to cavitation), but less-efficient water transport system when soil water availability was low, supporting the hydraulic safety versus efficiency trade-off hypothesis. Furthermore, in sandy and mixed soils, the root: shoot ratio of G. herbaceum increased twofold, which ensures the same efficiency of leaves. In summary, our finding indicates that the morphological plasticity of xylem structure in G. herbaceum has a major role in the acclimatization of this plant species to different soil textures.