Association of carbon isotope discrimination with leaf gas exchange and water use efficiency in maize following soil amendment with superabsorbent hydrogel
The correlation of carbon isotope discrimination (△13C) with photosynthetic gas exchange and water use efficiency (WUE) in maize was investigated under low rainfall conditions with or without superabsorbent polymer (SAP). SAP (45 kg/ha) was mixed into the top 10 cm soil layer at sowing in lysimeters. Compared with the control plants not treated with SAP, the application of SAP increased net photosynthesis rate; stomatal conductance (gs); transpiration rate; chlorophyll content (Chl) and intrinsic water use efficiency at leaf level (WUEi), but decreased intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci) and leaf △13C. In plants supplied with SAP, leaf △13C was positively correlated with Ci (r = 0.864, P < 0.01) and negatively correlated with gs and WUEi (r = –0.860 and –0.626, P < 0.01, respectively). Leaf △13C was not correlated with Chl with or without SAP. Grain △13C significantly decreased by 12.4% and showed a significant negative correlation with grain WUE under SAP treatments (r = –0.670, P < 0.05). These results suggest that in the presence of SAP, maize leaf and grain △13C could be good indicators for evaluating maize WUE during periods of low rainfall.
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