Increase in drought conditions during the oilseed rape (OSR) reproductive phase is predicted to occur more often in the temperate zone, leading to significant yield losses. Crop management solutions such as film antitranspirant (AT) applied at key drought‐sensitive growth stages on both wheat and oilseed rape have recently been shown to alleviate drought‐induced yield losses. However, there is a lack of information regarding potential AT effectiveness to reduce drought damage on OSR plants at different soil moisture regimes. Therefore, two similar experiments were performed in a computer‐controlled glasshouse/phenotyping centre to investigate the physiological responses of OSR to well‐watered (WW), moderate water stress (MWS), water stress (WS) and severe water stress (SWS) conditions. Stress treatments were imposed at the initiation of flowering and treated with an AT or water onto the leaf canopy. Stress limited the gas‐exchange and increased leaf temperature, leaf‐to‐air temperature, bud‐to‐air temperature and ABA concentrations which increased with stress intensity in all tissues analysed. Yield components were significantly reduced by WS and SWS treatments when compared to the WW plants. Application of AT counteracted the detrimental effect of WS and SWS by decreasing water use over the first few days of stress application thus improving relative water content and leaf water‐use efficiency, decreasing ABA accumulation in leaf and all the reproductive organs analysed (buds, flowers and pods) and avoiding bud‐to‐air temperature increases. AT application sustained pod formation and seed production under WS but only seed production under SWS conditions. These data suggest that leaf‐canopy application of AT at key phenological stages under particular magnitudes of soil moisture deficit may sustain OSR reproduction and reduce yield losses.
M. Faralli, I. G. Grove, M. C. Hare, A. Alcalde‐Barrios, K. S. Williams, F. M. K. Corke, P. S. Kettlewell