Drought is a major abiotic stress factor limiting cotton yield. It is important to identify the genotypes that can conserve water under drought stress conditions and improve yield. The objective of the current study was to evaluate cotton genotypes for water conservation traits, i.e., high FTSW (Fraction of Transpirable Soil Water) threshold for transpiration. Plants utilize water slowly by declining transpiration at high FTSW and conserving soil water, which can be used by the plant later in the growing season to improve yield. Fifteen cotton varieties were selected based on their differences in transpiration response to elevated vapor pressure deficit (VPD) to study drought responses. Two pot experiments were carried out in the greenhouse to determine the FTSW threshold for the transpiration rate as the soil dried. A significant variation (p
< 0.01) in the FTSW threshold values for transpiration decline was observed, ranging from 0.35 to 0.60 among cotton cultivars. Genotypes with high FTSW thresholds also displayed low transpiration under well-watered conditions. Further studies with four selected genotype contrasts in FTSW threshold values for transpiration showed differences (p
< 0.05 to 0.001) in gas exchange parameters and water potentials. This study demonstrated that there are alternate traits among the cotton genotypes for enhancing soil water conservation to improve yield under water-limited conditions.
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