The effect of water deficit on stem reserve mobilization and sink activity in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars, viz., C306 (drought tolerant) and PBW343 (drought sensitive) was studied. Drought was maintained in pot raised plants by withholding irrigation at 95 days after sowing (DAS), i.e. just five days before the initiation of anthesis. Drought induced a significant reduction in mean biomass of all the internodes of sensitive cultivar as compared to those of tolerant one. Mobilized dry matter and mobilization efficiency were observed to be higher in the internodes of tolerant cultivar, both under control and stress conditions, which resulted in enhanced translocation of stem reserves to the grains. Water soluble carbohydrates (WSC), which mainly occur as fructans, were observed to be higher in the internodes of tolerant cultivar than those of sensitive one. When drought was applied, fructans were mobilized more effectively from the internodes of tolerant cultivar. A significantly higher sucrose synthase activity in the grains of tolerant cultivar, under drought conditions, increased the sink strength by unloading the assimilates in the sink, thereby increasing further mobilization of assimilates to the grains. Grains of sensitive cultivar attained maturity much earlier as compared to the tolerant one, both under control and stress conditions. The longer duration of grain maturation in tolerant cultivar supported enhanced mobilization of stem reserves, thus restricting heavy decrease in grain yield, under stress conditions, as compared to the sensitive cultivar. It may, therefore, be concluded that certain characteristics viz., enhanced capability of fructan storage, higher mobilization efficiency, stronger sink activity and longer duration of grain maturation might help the drought tolerant cultivar in coping the stress condition
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