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    Cotton production is adversely effected by drought stress. It is exposed to drought stress at various critical growth stages grown under a water scarcity environment. Roots are the sensors of plants; they detect osmotic stress under drought stress and play an important role in plant drought tolerance mechanisms. The seedling stage is very sensitive to drought stress, and it needed to explore the methods and plant characteristics that contribute to drought tolerance in cotton. Initially, seedlings of 18 genotypes from three Gossypium species: G. hirsutum, G. barbadense, and G. arboreum, were evaluated for various seedling traits under control (NS) and drought stress (DS). Afterward, six genotypes, including two of each species, one tolerant and one susceptible, were identified based on the cumulative drought sensitivity response index (CDSRI). Finally, growth rates (GR) were examined for shoot and root growth parameters under control and DS in experimental hydroponic conditions. A significant variation of drought stress responses was observed across tested genotypes and species. CDSRI allowed here to identify the drought-sensitive and drought-resistant cultivar of each investigated species. Association among root and shoots growth traits disclosed influential effects of enduring the growth under DS. The traits including root length, volume, and root number were the best indicators with significantly higher differential responses in the tolerant genotypes. These root growth traits, coupled with the accumulation of photosynthates and proline, were also the key indicators of the resistance to drought stress. Tolerant genotypes have advanced growth rates and the capacity to cop with drought stress by encouraging characteristics, including root differential growth traits coupled with physiological traits such as chlorophyll and proline contents. Tolerant and elite genotypes of G. hirsutum were more tolerant of drought stress than obsolete genotypes of G. barbadense and G. arboreum. Identified genotypes have a strong genetic basis of drought tolerance, which can be used in cotton breeding programs. © 2022. The Author(s).


    Tahir Mahmood, Muhammad Shahid Iqbal, Hongge Li, Mian Faisal Nazir, Shiguftah Khalid, Zareen Sarfraz, Daowu Hu, Chen Baojun, Xiaoli Geng, Sani Muhammad Tajo, Washu Dev, Zubair Iqbal, Pan Zhao, Guanjing Hu, Xiongming Du. Differential seedling growth and tolerance indices reflect drought tolerance in cotton. BMC plant biology. 2022 Jul 11;22(1):331

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    PMID: 35820810

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