Journal Article

Water deficit and induction of summer dormancy in perennial Mediterranean grasses

Florence Volaire, Giovanna Seddaiu, Luigi Ledda and François Lelievre

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 8, pages 1337-1346
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Water deficit and induction of summer dormancy in perennial Mediterranean grasses

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Summer dormancy is a trait conferring superior drought survival in Mediterranean perennial grasses. As the respective roles of environmental factors and water deficit on induction of summer dormancy are unclear, the effect of intense drought were tested under contrasting day lengths in a range of forage and native grasses.


Plants of Poa bulbosa, Dactylis glomerata ‘Kasbah’ and Lolium arundinaceum ‘Flecha’ were grown in pots (a) from winter to summer in a glasshouse and subjected to either an early or a late-spring drought period followed by a summer water deficit and (b) in controlled conditions, with long days (LD, 16 h) or short days (SD, 9 h) and either full irrigation or water deficit followed by rehydration. Leaf elongation, senescence of aerial tissues and dehydration of basal tissues were measured to assess dormancy. Endogenous abscisic acid (ABA) in basal tissues was determined by monoclonal immunoassay analysis.

Key Results

Even under irrigation, cessation of leaf elongation, senescence of lamina and relative dehydration of basal tissues were triggered only by a day length longer than 13 h 30 min (late spring and LD) in plants of Poa bulbosa and Dactylis glomerata ‘Kasbah’ which exhibit complete dormancy. Plants of Lolium arundinaceum ‘Flecha’ maintained leaf growth under irrigation irrespective of the day length since its dormancy is incomplete. ABA concentrations were not higher during late-spring drought than early, and could not be associated with spring dormancy induction. In summer, ABA concentration in bulbs of the desiccation-tolerant Poa were greater than in basal tissues of other species.


The results of both experiments tend to invalidate the hypothesis that water deficit has a role in early summer-dormancy induction in the range of tested grasses. However, a late-spring drought tends to increase plant senescence and ABA accumulation in basal tissues of forage grasses which could enhance summer drought survival.

Keywords: Poa bulbosa; Dactylis glomerata; Lolium arundinaceum; abscisic acid; water deficit; photoperiod; summer dormancy; perennial grass

Journal Article.  6510 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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