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A Comparative Analysis of Agronomic Water-Use Efficiency and its Proxy Measures as derived from Key Morpho-Physiological and Supportive Quantitative Genetics Attributes of Perennial Ryegrass under Imposed Drought
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  • L.V.Y. Weerarathne,
  • Z. Jahufer,
  • Rudi Schaeufele,
  • * Lopez,
  • C. Matthew
L.V.Y. Weerarathne
University of Peradeniya Faculty of Agriculture

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Z. Jahufer
The University of Queensland School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
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Rudi Schaeufele
European University - Munich
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* Lopez
Massey University School of Agriculture and Environment
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C. Matthew
Massey University School of Agriculture and Environment
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Water-use efficiency (WUE) is an under-researched but very important drought tolerance trait for forage breeding purposes. This research evaluated morpho-physiological traits linked to agronomic water-use efficiency (WUE A) and its proxy measures based on δ 13C (WUE i) or gas exchange (evapotranspiration, WUE AET, or stomatal conductance WUE ASC) and their quantitative genetic parameters (QGPs) of 400 half-sib family genotypes of Lolium perenne L. (PRG) in a 5-month soil drought cycle spanning field capacity (FC), 85–90% FC, 55–65% FC, 45–55% FC, and <55% FC (post-cutting regrowth). Principal component analysis (PCA) of trait data distinguished a group of PRG genotypes where high WUE A and pasture yield were associated with a distinctive deep rooting pattern and improved leaf hydration at more negative leaf osmotic and water potentials. Plants with this trait association sustained net assimilation and soil moisture reserves throughout the drought cycle. Estimated QGPs including high narrow-sense heritability ( h n 2 > 0 . 7 ; p < 0 . 05 ) of key traits emphasized the genetic potential of the identified trait combination for selecting PRG for improved drought tolerance. PCA and estimates of QGPs revealed a weak association between WUE A, WUEi, WUE ASC, or WUE AET under the conditions tested. The results highlight the preferability of WUE A over its proxy measures in defining PRG drought tolerance.