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Water use efficiency responses to fluctuating soil water availability in contrasting commercial sugar beet varieties

Barratt, Georgina E.; Murchie, Erik H.; Sparkes, Debbie L.


Georgina E. Barratt

Professor of Applied Plant Physiology

Debbie L. Sparkes


Many areas of sugar beet production will face hotter and drier summers as the climate changes. There has been much research on drought tolerance in sugar beet but water use ef!ciency (WUE) has been less of a focus. An experiment was undertaken to examine how "uctuating soil water de!cits effect WUE from the leaf to the crop level and identify if sugar beet acclimates to water de!cits to increase WUE in the longer term. Two commercial sugar beet varieties with contrasting upright and prostrate canopies were examined to identify if WUE differs due to contrasting canopy architecture. The sugar beet were grown under four different irrigation regimes (fully irrigated, single drought, double drought and continually water limited) in large 610 L soil boxes in an open ended polytunnel. Measurements of leaf gas exchange, chlorophyll "uorescence and relative water content (RWC) were regularly undertaken and stomatal density, sugar and biomass yields and the associated WUE, SLW and D13C were assessed. The results showed that water de!cits generally increase intrinsic (WUE) and dry matter (WUE ) water use
i D M
ef!ciency but reduce yield. Sugar beet recovered fully after severe water de!cits, as assessed by leaf gas exchange and chlorophyll "uorescence parameters and, except for reducing canopy size, showed no other acclimation to drought, and therefore no changes in WUE or drought avoidance. Spot measurements of WUEi, showed no differences between the two varieties but the prostrate variety showed lower D13C values, and traits associated with more water conservative phenotypes of a lower stomatal density and greater leaf RWC. Leaf chlorophyll content was affected by water de!cit but the relationship with WUE was unclear. The difference in D13C values between the two varieties suggests traits associated with greater WUEi
may be linked to canopy architecture.


Barratt, G. E., Murchie, E. H., & Sparkes, D. L. (2023). Water use efficiency responses to fluctuating soil water availability in contrasting commercial sugar beet varieties. Frontiers in Plant Science, 14, Article 1119321.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 22, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2023
Journal Frontiers in Plant Science
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Article Number 1119321
Keywords Plant Science
Public URL
Publisher URL


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