Brassica crop species : improving water use efficiency : challenges and opportunities

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TypeBook Chapter
Book titleImproving Crop Resistance to Abiotic Stress
Pages13011314; # of pages: 14
Subjectbrassica; breeding; drought tolerance; transpiration efficiency; water use efficiency; yield
AbstractThe Brassica species occupies a large portion of the world's economically important cultivated crops. These include vegetables, oilseeds, condiments, and forages. These crops are grown globally under a wide range of climatic conditions. With current concerns for food and energy security, expanded use of crop products, and environmental stewardship, there is a pressing need to improve yield through greater efficiency of resource utilization. Water availability is the most limiting factor to crop productivity and with the predicted scarcity, due to climate change and increased nonagricultural demand, improving water use efficiency (WUE) in crop production is an imperative. Consequently, increased carbon assimilation per unit of water used by Brassica crops must not only be realized but this carbon must also be efficiently partitioned into the harvested product. Thus, these plants need to be equipped with the genetic capacity to extract more water from the soil under water-limited conditions, fix more carbon, and transpire less water. There is natural genetic variability for WUE and this can be used for screening germplasm to identify better genotypes. Evaporative demand is the driving force for water loss and WUE can be improved by increasing transpiration efficiency (TE), alteration in crop phenology, increased carbon fixation, and increased harvest index (HI) by greater partitioning of assimilates into harvestable product. Modification of root architecture, leaf morphology, and stomata conductance are important targets for developing cultivars with improved WUE. Drought tolerance is closely associated with WUE and factors contributing to maintenance of metabolic function under water-limited conditions contribute to improved WUE. Studies on Arabidopsis have contributed to significant advances in our understanding of WUE and drought tolerance. The use of genetic engineering and genomic tools has allowed for the incorporation of identified genetic factors for improving WUE and drought tolerance traits and will be vital to the development of new Brassica cultivars. The carbon fixation machinery, a vital component in yield, will require adjustments to deal with anticipated water deficits in order to take advantage of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide as a result of climate change. Manipulation of assimilate partitioning and selection of genotypes with capacity to store water-soluble carbohydrates in stems that can be remobilized to harvestable structures are targets for improving WUE. To maintain high yields of Brassica crops with economic use of water will require substantial increases in our understanding of the biological processes associated with growth under water-limited conditions. The availability of potential gene targets from the present and future discoveries including rapid advances coming from application of genomic technologies may provide a valuable resource base for development of superior WUE Brassica crops in the coming years.
Publication date
AffiliationNational Research Council Canada (NRC-CNRC); Aquatic and Crop Resource Development
Peer reviewedYes
NRC number55849
NPARC number21269400
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Record identifier56778153-1af8-4d2b-a2c9-3398edcf1d8c
Record created2013-12-12
Record modified2016-05-09
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