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    Drought at flowering and grain filling greatly reduces maize (Zea mays) yield. Climate change is causing earlier and longer lasting periods of drought, which affect the growth of multiple maize organs throughout development. To study how long periods of water deficit impact the dynamic nature of growth, and to determine how these relate to reproductive drought, we employed a high-throughput phenotyping platform featuring precise irrigation, imaging systems, and image-based biomass estimations. Prolonged drought resulted in a reduction of growth rate of individual organs-though an extension of growth duration partially compensated for this-culminating in lower biomass and delayed flowering. However, long periods of drought did not affect the highly organized succession of maximal growth rates of the distinct organs, i.e., leaves, stems, and ears. Two drought treatments negatively affected distinct seed yield components: prolonged drought mainly reduced the number of spikelets, and drought during the reproductive period increased the anthesis-silking interval. The identification of these divergent biomass and yield components, which were affected by the shift in duration and intensity of drought, will facilitate trait-specific breeding towards future climate-resilient crops. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


    Lennart Verbraeken, Nathalie Wuyts, Stien Mertens, Bernard Cannoot, Katrien Maleux, Kirin Demuynck, Jolien De Block, Julie Merchie, Stijn Dhondt, Gustavo Bonaventure, Steven Crafts-Brandner, Jonathan Vogel, Wesley Bruce, Dirk Inzé, Steven Maere, Hilde Nelissen. Drought affects the rate and duration of organ growth but not inter organ growth coordination. Plant physiology. 2021 Mar 31

    PMID: 33788927

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