Water use characteristics of a bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea L. Verdc) landrace during seedling establishment
Bambara groundnut is slow to establish and this has negative implications for total water use. Consideration of bambara groundnut as a water-efficient crop for dry areas will benefit from an understanding of water use efficiency and water use characteristics during establishment. We investigated whether there is an association between seed-coat colour of bambara groundnut seeds and water use efficiency. A secondary objective was to determine physiological and metabolic responses of bambara groundnut to terminal water stress during seedling establishment. Bambara groundnut seedlings showed reduced seedling canopy growth, increased root length and root: shoot ratio, as well as increased total soluble sugars and tissue water potential with decreasing water availability – traits associated with drought avoidance mechanisms. Consequently, seedling water use efficiency improved with decreasing water availability. Acclimation to water stress was observed under terminal stress; previously stressed seedlings responded better than previously non-stressed seedlings. Dark-coloured seeds had higher levels of phenolics which may have led to their enhanced performance during seedling emergence as well as improved drought tolerance and seedling WUE.
Keywords: drought, physiological, metabolic, growth, water use efficiency