Root plasticity as the key root trait for adaptation to various intensities of drought stress in rice
- Roots play an important role in rice adaptation to drought conditions. This study aimed to identify the key root traits that contribute to plant adaptation to drought stress. We used chromosome segment substitution lines (CSSLs) derived from Nipponbare and Kasalath crosses, which were grown in the field and hydroponics. In field experiments, the plants were grown under soil moisture gradients with line source sprinkler system up to around heading. Among the 54 CSSLs, only CSSL50 consistently showed significantly higher shoot dry matter production than its parent Nipponbare as the drought intensified for 3 years while most of the CSSLs reduced dry matter production to similar extents with Nipponbare under the same conditions. CSSL50 showed significantly greater total root length through promoted lateral root branching and elongation than Nipponbare, especially under mild stress conditions (15−30% w/w of soil moisture contents), which is considered as phenotypic plasticity. Such plastic root development was the key trait that effectively contributed to plant dry matter production through increased total root length and thus water uptake. However, there was no relationship between root plasticity and plant growth under the stress conditions induced by polyethylene glycol in hydroponics.