Hydrogel substrate amendment alleviates drought effects on young citrus plants
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Water deficits affect citrus physiology, yield, fruit size and quality. Citrus can respond to drought stress conditions through endogenous hormonal regulation of water status and leaf abscission. In this work, we assayed the efficiency of an amendment to soilless media in delaying the drought stress effect in young citrus seedlings and trees. Substrate amendment promoted plant survival of citrus seedlings subjected to several cycles of drought stress and rehydration. In budded trees, the amendment increased substrate water content, leaf water potential, leaf number, root biomass, CO2 assimilation and stomatal conductance over that of control plants growing in non-amended substrates. We conclude that the substrate amendment reduced the damaging effects of drought stress in citrus plants. The longer survival of seedlings in the amended treatment together with the reduction in leaf abscission and the improvement of physiological parameters, can account for a higher vigour of citrus grown under water stress conditions.