Evaluating drought resistance in germplasm of meadow fescue

Henry Thomas, Susan Dalton, Clive Evans, Ken H. Chorlton, Ian Thomas

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The drought resistance of 25 accessions of meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds.) from seven countries was investigated in four experiments: two in the glasshouse using pot-grown plants from which water was withheld for various periods, and two in controlled environments under osmotic stress.
There were significant differences between populations (‘broad-sense heritabilities’ or ‘repeatabilities’) in all four experiments. In the glasshouse there was a large residual effect of yield potential on production during and after slight-to-moderate drought, and different susceptibilities appeared only after very severe drought. The most consistently high-yielding accessions were from the Bergamo alps in Italy. Recovery after drought was strongly correlated with tiller survival. Continued production under moderate drought was considered important in wetter climates, whereas survival and recovery under severe drought was often associated with low production or flowering in the seeding year, and more typical of summer-drought climates.
Leaf growth rates of plants subjected to zero or moderate osmotic stress were correlated with yields of irrigated or moderately-stressed plants in the glasshouse, although there was no differential susceptibility to mild stress. Under severe osmotic stress there were very large differences in survival between populations, but there was no relationship with survival under glasshouse conditions.
The inconsistency of population rankings across experiments shows that no one technique gives a full evaluation of drought resistance, and emphasizes the complex nature of the phenomenon. It was possible, however, to identify (a) regions meriting further collections, and (b) ecotypes that had desirable responses in all experiments and could contribute to variety improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-411
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996


  • Festuca pratensis
  • Lolium perenne
  • accessions
  • drought resistance
  • heritability
  • meadow fescue
  • osmotic stress
  • ×Festulolium


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