A major issue in modern agriculture is water loss through stomata during photosynthetic carbon assimilation. In water-limited ecosystems, annual plants have strategies to synchronize their growth and reproduction to the availability of water. Some species or ecotypes of flowers are early to ensure that their life cycles are completed before the onset of late season terminal drought ("drought escape"). This accelerated flowering correlates with low water-use efficiency (WUE). The molecular players and physiological mechanisms involved in this coordination are not fully understood. We analyzed WUE using gravimetry, gas exchange, and carbon isotope discrimination in florigen deficient (sft mutant), wild-type (Micro-Tom), and florigen over-expressing (SFT-ox) tomato lines. Increased florigen expression led to accelerated flowering time and reduced WUE. The low WUE of SFT-ox was driven by higher stomatal conductance and thinner leaf blades. This florigen-driven effect on WUE appears be independent of abscisic acid (ABA). Our results open a new avenue to increase WUE in crops in an ABA-independent manner. Manipulation of florigen levels could allow us to produce crops with a life cycle synchronized to water availability.
Keywords: CENTRORADIALIS/TERMINAL FLOWER 1/SELF PRUNING (CETS) gene family; NOTABILIS; SINGLE FLOWER TRUSS; Solanum lycopersicum; abscisic acid; florigen; flowering; water-use efficiency.
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