AbstractWater limitation is a major yield limiting factor in groundnut and transpiration efficiency (TE) is considered the main target for improvement, but TE being difficult to measure it has mostly been screened with surrogates. The paper re-explore the contribution of TE to grain yield in peanut by using a novel experimental approach in which TE is measured gravimetrically throughout the crop life cycle, in addition to measurement of TE surrogates. Experimentation was carried out with the groundnut reference collection (n=288), across seasons varying for the evaporative demand (vapor pressure deficit, VPD) and across both fully irrigated and intermittent water stress conditions. There was large genotypic variation for TE under water stress in both low and high VPD season but the range was larger (5-fold) in the high- than in the low-VPD season (2-fold). Under water stress in both seasons, yield was closely related to the harvest index (HI) while TE related directly to yield only in the high VPD season. After discounting the direct HI effect on yield, TE explained a large portion of the remaining yield variations in both seasons, although marginally in the low VPD season. By contrast, the total water extracted from the soil profile, which varied between genotypes, did not relate directly to pod yield and neither to the yield residuals unexplained by HI. Surrogates for TE (specific leaf area, SLA, and SPAD chlorophyll meter readings, SCMR) never showed any significant correlation to TE measurements. Therefore, TE is an important factor explaining yield differences in groundnut under high VPD environments, suggesting that stomatal regulation under high VPD, rather than high photosynthetic rate as proposed earlier, may have a key role to play in the large TE differences found, which open new opportunities to breed improved groundnut for high VPD
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