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Plant Methods. 2008 Nov 11;4:27. doi: 10.1186/1746-4811-4-27.

A rapid, non-invasive procedure for quantitative assessment of drought survival using chlorophyll fluorescence.

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Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.



Analysis of survival is commonly used as a means of comparing the performance of plant lines under drought. However, the assessment of plant water status during such studies typically involves detachment to estimate water shock, imprecise methods of estimation or invasive measurements such as osmotic adjustment that influence or annul further evaluation of a specimen's response to drought.


This article presents a procedure for rapid, inexpensive and non-invasive assessment of the survival of soil-grown plants during drought treatment. The changes in major photosynthetic parameters during increasing water deficit were monitored via chlorophyll fluorescence imaging and the selection of the maximum efficiency of photosystem II (Fv/Fm) parameter as the most straightforward and practical means of monitoring survival is described. The veracity of this technique is validated through application to a variety of Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes and mutant lines with altered tolerance to drought or reduced photosynthetic efficiencies.


The method presented here allows the acquisition of quantitative numerical estimates of Arabidopsis drought survival times that are amenable to statistical analysis. Furthermore, the required measurements can be obtained quickly and non-invasively using inexpensive equipment and with minimal expertise in chlorophyll fluorometry. This technique enables the rapid assessment and comparison of the relative viability of germplasm during drought, and may complement detailed physiological and water relations studies.

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