Drought-induced injury is associated with hormonal alteration in Kentucky bluegrass

Plant hormones play an important role in plant adaptation to abiotic stress, but hormonal responses of cool-season turfgrass species to drought stress are not well documented. This study was to investigate responses of hormones and photosynthesis to drought stress and examine if drought stress – induced hormone alteration is associated with stress tolerance in kentucky bluegrass (KBG, Poa pratensis L.). The grass was grown in a growth chamber for 6 weeks and then subjected to drought stress [40%-50% evapotranspiration (ET) replacement)] for 28 d. Drought stress caused cell membrane damage, resulting in decline in photosynthetic rate (Pn), chlorophyll content, and visual quality in KBG. Drought stressed grass had higher leaf abscisic acid (ABA), lower leaf trans-zeatin riboside (ZR), isopentenyl adenosine (iPA), and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), but similar level of leaf gibberellin A4 (GA4) when compared to the control (well-watered). On average, drought stress treatment reduced leaf ZR by 59.1%, iPA by 50.4%, IAA by 26.7%, while increased ABA by 108.5% when compared to the control at the end of drought stress (28 d). The turf quality and photosynthetic rate was positively correlated with cytokinins and IAA, but negatively correlated with ABA and ABA/cytokinins (CK) ratio under drought stress. The results of this study suggest drought stress-induced injury to Kentucky bluegrass may be associated with hormonal alteration, and the plants with higher cytokinins and IAA and less ABA under drought stress may have better photosynthetic function and performance.