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Plant Physiol Biochem. 2008 Feb;46(2):189-95. Epub 2007 Oct 12.

Response of the photosynthetic apparatus of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) to the onset of drought stress under field conditions studied by gas-exchange analysis and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging.

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Institute of Agro-envinronmental and Forest Biology, National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Via Salaria Km 29.300, 00015 Monterotondo, Roma, Italy.


The functioning of the photosynthetic apparatus of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) grown during the onset of water limitation was studied by gas-exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence to better understand the adaptation mechanisms of the photosynthetic apparatus to drought conditions. For this, cotton was grown in the field in Central Asia under well-irrigated and moderately drought-stressed conditions. The light and CO(2) responses of photosynthesis (A(G)), stomatal conductance (g(s)) and various chlorophyll fluorescence parameters were determined simultaneously. Furthermore, chlorophyll fluorescence images were taken from leaves to study the spatial pattern of photosystem II (PSII) efficiency and non-photochemical quenching parameters. Under low and moderate light intensity, the onset of drought stress caused an increase in the operating quantum efficiency of PSII photochemistry (varphi(PSII)) which indicated increased photorespiration since photosynthesis was hardly affected by water limitation. The increase in varphi(PSII) was caused by an increase of the efficiency of open PSII reaction centers (F(v)'/F(m)') and by a decrease of the basal non-photochemical quenching (varphi(NO)). Using a chlorophyll fluorescence imaging system a low spatial heterogeneity of varphi(PSII) was revealed under both irrigation treatments. The increased rate of photorespiration in plants during the onset of drought stress can be seen as an acclimation process to avoid an over-excitation of PSII under more severe drought conditions.

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