Maize seedling performance as a potential index for drought tolerance

Natalija Kravić, Vesna Hadži-Tašković Šukalović, Vojka Babić, Jelena Srdić, Jelena Mesarović, Violeta Anđelković


Twenty-six maize landraces were tested in order to evaluate maize seedling performance as an index for drought tolerance in adult plants. Samples were subjected to polyethylene glycol-induced osmotic stress at the early seedling stage. Grain yield was obtained in field experiments under well-watered (OC) and a combination of drought and high plant density (HD) conditions. Osmotic stress caused a reduction in seedling growth (length, fresh and dry weight), and increases in the shoot and in particular the root proline contents in the majority of landraces, and variations in root peroxidase (POD) activity. Genotypes displaying more pronounced root growth reduction and higher proline contents exhibited decreased POD activity under osmotic stress. Direct positive correlations between the proline content and growth inhibition, and between the proline and soluble protein content were established. Correlations between the changes in POD activity and growth parameters were significant and positive, and significant but negative with the changes in the proline content. In the field, water stress led to a reduction in grain yield in all of the tested landraces. Correlations between grain yield from both experimental sets (OC and HD) and osmotic-induced changes in seedling root growth were negative, which was opposite to the highly significant and positive correlations between the changes in the seedling root proline content and yield. Also, genotypes with the highest seedling root proline content increase under osmotic stress, exhibited the highest stress tolerance index (STI) based on grain yield achieved under both field conditions. Our results indicate that lower changes in POD activity and especially an increased proline content after exposure to osmotic stress during the early seedling stage could be considered as useful indices to facilitate selection efficiency for drought tolerance in adult plants.

Received: May 4, 2017; Revised: August 31, 2017; Accepted: September 28, 2017; Published online: October 6, 2017

How to cite this article: Kravić N, Hadži-Tašković Šukalović V, Babić V, Srdić J, Mesarović J, Anđelković V. Maize seedling performance as a potential index for drought tolerance. Arch Biol Sci. 2018;70(1):167-77.


drought; grain yield; POD activity; proline content; Zea mays L.

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