Wild Miscanthus Germplasm In A Drought-Affected Area: Physiology And Agronomy Appraisals
Predictions of future climate scenarios indicate that yields from perennial biomass crops (PBCs) growing in the Mediterranean region are likely to decline due to prolonged drought. Among PBCs, Miscanthus grasses with C4 photosynthesis combine high yield potentials and water use efficiencies. However, the standard commercial clone M. x giganteus (Mxg), with minimal stomatal regulation, is too sensitive to drought for reliable yields in the Mediterranean regions. This paper screened a diverse panel of thirteen Miscanthus genotypes (M. sinensis, M. floridulus, M. sacchariflorus and Mxg) to identify which types could maximize yield under summer drought conditions typical in the South Mediterranean climate. In the second growing season, significant differences were observed for plant height (from 63 to 185 cm), stem number (from 12 to 208 stems plant−1), biomass yield (from 0.17 to 6.4 kg DM plant−1) and whole crop water use efficiency (from 0.11 to 7.0 g L−1). Temporal variation in net photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, transpiration rate and instantaneous water use efficiency identified different strategies adopted by genotypes, and that genotypes selected from M. floridulus and M. sinensis were better adapted to rainfed conditions and could produce six times more biomass than the Mxg. These accessions are being used as parents in experimental breeding aimed at producing future seed-based drought resilient hybrids.