Drought stress is a major limiting factor in soybean production in South Africa. The development of soybean varieties with enhanced tolerance to soil waterlimited induced stress (WLIS) is one sustainable way to deal with drought. Root traits have shown strong potential for improvement of drought tolerance through breeding. The objectives of this study were to evaluate seedling shoot- and root growth responses under WLIS in order to study root morphology as a mechanism to cope with drought stress and to determine if there were genotypic differences in shoot- and root morphology between drought tolerant and -sensitive soybean genotypes. Seedlings of three drought tolerant and one sensitive genotype were subjected to soil WLIS in deep-root-pots for 21 days. Results suggested significant genotypic differences for shoot length, number of leaves, tap root length and root-to-shoot length ratio. Soybean tolerant genotypes were associated with moderate shoot biomass, deep rooting abilities and maintained a large root-to-shoot ratio under WLIS conditions. In contrast, the sensitive genotype was associated with a reduced root-to-shoot ratio and shallower root system. Soybean genotypes showed varying seedling root growth responses to soil WLIS, while shoot biomass characteristics were similar.
Part of the book: Soybean