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Tree Physiol. 2018 Aug 1;38(8):1180-1192. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpy049.

Variations in xylem embolism susceptibility under drought between intact saplings of three walnut species.

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Department of Viticulture & Enology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
USDA-ARS, Crops Pathology and Genetics Research Unit, Davis, CA, USA.


A germplasm collection containing varied Juglans genotypes holds potential to improve drought resistance of plant materials for commercial production. We used X-ray computed microtomography to evaluate stem xylem embolism susceptibility/repair in relation to vessel anatomical features (size, arrangement, connectivity and pit characteristics) in 2-year-old saplings of three Juglans species. In vivo analysis revealed interspecific variations in embolism susceptibility among Juglans microcarpa, J. hindsii (both native to arid habitats) and J. ailantifolia (native to mesic habitats). Stem xylem of J. microcarpa was more resistant to drought-induced embolism as compared with J. hindsii and J. ailantifolia (differences in embolism susceptibility among older and current year xylem were not detected in any species). Variations in most vessel anatomical traits were negligible among the three species; however, we detected substantial interspecific differences in intervessel pit characteristics. As compared with J. hindsii and J. ailantifolia, low embolism susceptibility in J. microcarpa was associated with smaller pit size in larger diameter vessels, a smaller area of the shared vessel wall occupied by pits, lower pit frequency and no changes in pit characteristics as vessel diameters increased. Changes in amount of embolized vessels following 40 days of re-watering were minor in intact saplings of all three species highlighting that an embolism repair mechanism did not contribute to drought recovery. In conclusion, our data indicate that interspecific variations in drought-induced embolism susceptibility are associated with species-specific pit characteristics, and these traits may provide a future target for breeding efforts aimed at selecting walnut germplasm with improved drought resistance.

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