Fifteen cultivars of orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) were grown in the field at Hiroshima University, Japan, to investigate seasonal changes in leaf water relations and cell membrane stability (CMS) measured by the polyethylene glycol (PEG) test. Leaf water potential and osmotic potential were measured from August 1988 to August 1989. Solute concentration in leaf cell sap was also estimated.
Cell membrane stability increased, leaf water potential and osmotic potential decreased and turgor potential increased with decreasing environmental temperatures during autumn and winter. The significant increases observed in CMS may enable plants to tolerate freezing temperatures during winter. Decrease in leaf water potential may be a result of water-deficit effects due to soil freezing at low temperatures and the decrease in osmotic potential may help plants to maintain turgor and tolerate freezing conditions. Plants maintained higher turgor as the osmotic potential decreased to values as low as – 3·98 MPa during winter; the maintenance of turgor helps to maintain water uptake under water deficit conditions at low temperatures.
Sugar and K were the major osmotic contributors in orchardgrass leaves. Sugar and Ca concentrations increased and Mg and P concentrations decreased at cold temperatures. K concentration increased in six cultivars and decreased in nine others at cold temperatures. Sugar concentration in cell sap was negatively correlated with osmotic potential. It was concluded that seasonal changes in CMS may be mainly associated with the osmotic potential of the leaf tissues.