Distinct controls of leaf widening and elongation by light and evaporative demand in maize

Plant Cell Environ. 2017 Sep;40(9):2017-2028. doi: 10.1111/pce.13005. Epub 2017 Jul 14.


Leaf expansion depends on both carbon and water availabilities. In cereals, most of experimental effort has focused on leaf elongation, with essentially hydraulic effects. We have tested if evaporative demand and light could have distinct effects on leaf elongation and widening, and if short-term effects could translate into final leaf dimensions. For that, we have monitored leaf widening and elongation in a field experiment with temporary shading, and in a platform experiment with 15 min temporal resolution and contrasting evaporative demands. Leaf widening showed a strong (positive) sensitivity to whole-plant intercepted light and no response to evaporative demand. Leaf elongation was (negatively) sensitive to evaporative demand, without effect of intercepted light per se. We have successfully tested resulting equations to predict leaf length and width in an external dataset of 15 field and six platform experiments. These effects also applied to a panel of 251 maize hybrids. Leaf length and width presented quantitative trait loci (QTLs) whose allelic effects largely differed between both dimensions but were consistent in the field and the platform, with high QTL × Environment interaction. It is therefore worthwhile to identify the genetic and environmental controls of leaf width and leaf length for prediction of plant leaf area.

Keywords: GWAS; QTL; VPD; leaf elongation; leaf length; leaf width.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Environment
  • Light*
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / physiology*
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects*
  • Plant Transpiration / physiology*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Vapor Pressure
  • Zea mays / physiology*
  • Zea mays / radiation effects*