Root xylem plasticity to improve water use and yield in water-stressed soybean

m_erw47201Root architecture and anatomy contribute to water uptake efficiency and plant performance under water-limitation. Prince et al. explored root anatomy in a panel of soybean, and identified metaxylem number as a key trait influencing performance under water-limiting conditions. Increases in metaxylem number were correlated with improved hydraulic conductivity, which enhances water transport. The authors observe that altering the xylem size and number can enhance drought tolerance without incurring a penalty in irrigated conditions, and that selecting for xylem diameter has proven successful in a drought breeding program in wheat. These findings should prove useful for breeding soybeans for water-limited conditions.  J. Exp. Bot. 10.1093/jxb/erw472