Sleep tight and wake-up early: Nocturnal transpiration traits to increase wheat drought tolerance in a Mediterranean environment

Rémy Schoppach, Thomas R. Sinclair, Walid Sadok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In wheat, night-time transpiration rate (TRN) could amount to 14-55% of daytime transpiration rate (TR), depending on the cultivar and environment. Recent evidence suggests that TRN is much less responsive to soil drying than daytime TR, and that such 'wasteful' water losses would increase the impact of drought on yields. In contrast, other evidence indicates that pre-dawn, circadian increases in TRN may enable enhanced radiation use efficiency, resulting in increased productivity under water deficit. Until now, there have been no attempts to evaluate these seemingly conflicting hypotheses in terms of their impact on yields in any crop. Here, using the Mediterranean environment of Tunisia as a case study, we undertook a simulation modelling approach using SSM-Wheat to evaluate yield outcomes resulting from these TRN trait modifications. TRN represented 15% of daytime TR-generated yield penalties of up to 20%, and these worsened when TRN was not sensitive to soil drying TR. For the same TRN level (15%), simulating a predawn increase in TRN alleviated yield penalties, leading to yield gains of up to 25%. Overall, this work suggests that decreasing TRN but increasing pre-dawn circadian control would be a viable breeding target to increase drought tolerance in a Mediterranean environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1117-1127
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by USDA-NIFA through the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (project# MIN-13-095) and the National Science Foundation/Civilian Research and Development Foundation (award# OISE-16–62788-0). We are grateful to Michel Ghanem and Claudio Zucca for providing soil data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 CSIRO.


  • circadian clock
  • food security
  • physiological trade-offs
  • process-based crop model
  • water conservation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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