Morphological responses of sugarcane to long-term flooding

Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) in south Florida is often subjected to flooding due to intense summer rainfall or tropical storms. While there has been considerable research on the response of sugarcane cultivars to high water tables, there is a lack of information on cultivar morphological adaptation to long-term flooding. An experiment was established in Belle Glade, FL to examine: (i) effects of a July–September flood on the morphological characters of cv. CP 80-1743 and CP 72-2086 and (ii) significant flood x cultivar interactions that could be used to screen sugarcane germplasm. Sugarcane leaf, stem, primary root, adventitious root, and aerenchyma development were measured in the plant cane (2003) and second ratoon crops (2005). Morphological changes in response to flooding were similar in both years, with flooding leading to a 38% reduction in leaf weight, 4 to 15 times greater adventitious root development, 108% greater aerenchyma pipe extension, and 115% greater aerenchyma pipe diameter. Both cultivars responded to flooding by producing aboveground adventitious roots at the expense of belowground primary root biomass. A significant cultivar x flood interaction on aerenchyma extension and diameter was noted. Under nonflooded conditions, CP 72-2086 produced constitutive aerenchyma more than halfway up the stalk, whereas CP 80-1743 produced aerenchyma only 10% up the stalk. Aerenchyma development up the stalk may be a useful screening tool to identify flood-tolerance in sugarcane cultivars.

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