Climate change can result in extreme droughts, significantly affecting crop production. C4
crop proso millet (Panicum miliaceum
L.) has the lowest water consumption among all of the cereal crops. Understanding its survival mechanisms is thus crucial for agriculture. Furthermore, yield reduction does not only occur directly due to water shortage, but is also a consequence of an impaired element uptake during drought. This study aimed to examine the effect of water deficiency on proso millet leaf traits, plant biomass partition, and yield. In addition, leaf element contents were analysed, including silicon, which is an important multifunctional element for grasses. The majority of the measured parameters showed little change from the control to the moderate and severe water shortage treatments, even though the soil moisture levels differed significantly. The most pronounced reduction in comparison to the control was for leaf biomass, leaf stomatal conductance, and leaf silicon, phosphorus, calcium, and sulphur contents. Conversely, an increase was obtained for leaf potassium and chlorine contents. Panicle biomass was the same for all plant groups. Leaf silicon was positively correlated to reflectance in the UV region, while leaf calcium was negatively correlated to reflectance in the visible regions, which might prevent damage due to short-wave UV radiation and provide sufficient visible light for photosynthesis. The efficient light and water management, reduction of leaf biomass, and same-sized root system may be the mechanisms that mitigate the negative effects of water shortage in proso millet.
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