BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The stress caused by dryness can affect plant growth and physiology. Several coping mechanisms (recovery, avoidance, tolerance and drought escape) have been developed to mitigate the impact of drought stress, and most strategies involve survival during stress condition. The aim of this study was to compare the morphological and physiological characteristics of two varieties of sorghum forage (Pegah and Speedfeed) under drought stress conditions in order to provide beneficial and functional recommendations to farmers in the study area.
METHODS: This study was performed as a spit-plot plot in a complete randomised design with 3 replications for two years in Esfahan, Iran. Experimental treatments included drought stress at three levels for two varieties of sorghum. Mechanisms of sorghum response to drought stress, including physiological and morphological alterations, were also proposed. Treatment means were compared by the Duncan test at 5% and 1% levels of probability. The statistical analysis was applied to the data using the R software.
FINDING: Lower irrigation showed a gradual decrease in plants height, number of leaves per plant, stem diameter, nitrogen and crude protein, with an increase in the length and weight of their panicle. Compared to Pegah variety, Speedfeed cultivar with 12% increase enhanced the contents of chlorophyll (1.7 times) in the two years of experiment. It could be concluded that Speedfeed variety exhibited better yield and quality characteristics against drought stress compared to Pegah variety. Considering the tolerance index and the harmonic mean index, Pegah showed the highest sensitivity to drought stress.
CONCLUSION: This study indicated that sorghum had several adaptive mechanisms for dealing with drought stress, so that it could be applied as a suitable alternative for other crops with higher water needs such as Zea.
- Morphological and physiological alterations of two sorghum varieties in response to water stress indicated that they could raise the expression level of length and weight of the panicle and chlorophyll content.
- Based on drought tolerance indices, Pegah variety showed the highest sensitivity to water stress. Pegah is a relatively late Iranian cultivar suitable for silage production due to its high soluble sugar content and is considered genetically pure;
- Speedfeed variety proved to be more sensitive to water shortage, in terms of chlorophyll content and photosynthetic efficiency, than Pegah variety. Speedfeed variety gained 12% over the higher chlorophyll-rich Pegah in the two years of testing.
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