Abstract

We investigated effects of water stress and external abscisic acid (ABA) supply on shoot growth, stomatal conductance and water status in 1-year-old cuttings of a drought-sensitive poplar genotype Populus × euramericana cv. I-214 (Italica) and a drought-tolerant genotype P. ‘popularis 35-44’ (popularis). Populus popularis was more productive and maintained higher leaf water potentials throughout the drought treatment than cv. Italica. Supply of ABA to the xylem sap caused a greater decline in growth and more leaf abscission in shoots of cv. Italica than in shoots of P. popularis. Immediately after initiation of the drought treatment in P. popularis, the ABA concentration ([ABA]) of the xylem increased rapidly and stomatal conductance declined; however, stomatal conductance had returned to control values by the third day of the drought treatment, coincident with a gradual decline in xylem [ABA]. In contrast, xylem [ABA] of cv. Italica initially increased more slowly than that of P. popularis in response to the drought treatment, but the increase continued for 3 days at which time a tenfold increase in xylem [ABA] was observed that was followed by abscission of more than 40% of the leaves. We conclude that sensitivity of poplar roots to variation in soil water content varies by clone and that a rapid short-term accumulation of ABA in shoots in response to water stress may contribute to drought tolerance.