Low Water Potential Disrupts Carbohydrate Metabolism in Maize (Zea mays L.) Ovaries

Plant Physiology
C ZinselmeierR J Jones


Water deficit during pollination increases the frequency of kernel abortion in maize (Zea mays L.). Much of the kernel loss is attributable to lack of current photosynthate, but a large number of kernels fail to develop on water-deficient plants even when assimilate supply is increased. We examined the possibility that assimilate utilization by developing ovaries might be impaired at low water potential ([Psi]w). Plants were grown in the greenhouse in 20-L pots containing 22 kg of amended soil. Water was withheld on the first day silks emerged, and plants were hand-pollinated 4 d later when leaf [Psi]w decreased to approximately - 1.8 MPa and silk [Psi]w was approximately -1.0 MPa. Plants were rehydrated 2 d after pollination. The brief water deficit inhibited ovary growth (dry matter accumulation) and decreased kernel number per ear by 60%, compared to controls. Inhibition of ovary growth was associated with a decrease in the level of reducing sugars, depletion of starch, a 75-fold increase in sucrose concentration (dry weight basis), and inhibition of acid invertase (EC activity. These results indicate that water deficits during pollination disrupt carbohydrate metabolism in maize ovaries. They suggest that acid inv...Continue Reading


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