Differential regulation of flower transpiration during abiotic stress in annual plants

New Phytol. 2022 Jul;235(2):611-629. doi: 10.1111/nph.18162. Epub 2022 May 12.


Heat waves occurring during droughts can have a devastating impact on yield, especially if they happen during the flowering and seed set stages of the crop cycle. Global warming and climate change are driving an alarming increase in the frequency and intensity of combined drought and heat stress episodes, critically threatening global food security. Because high temperature is detrimental to reproductive processes, essential for plant yield, we measured the inner temperature, transpiration, sepal stomatal aperture, hormone concentrations and transcriptomic response of closed soybean flowers developing on plants subjected to a combination of drought and heat stress. Here, we report that, during a combination of drought and heat stress, soybean plants prioritize transpiration through flowers over transpiration through leaves by opening their flower stomata, while keeping their leaf stomata closed. This acclimation strategy, termed 'differential transpiration', lowers flower inner temperature by about 2-3°C, protecting reproductive processes at the expense of vegetative tissues. Manipulating stomatal regulation, stomatal size and/or stomatal density of flowers could serve as a viable strategy to enhance the yield of different crops and mitigate some of the current and future impacts of global warming and climate change on agriculture.

Keywords: climate change; drought; heat stress; soybean; stomata; stress combination; transpiration; yield.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crops, Agricultural
  • Droughts*
  • Flowers
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Stomata* / physiology
  • Plant Transpiration / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological