Drought-acclimated vines maintained higher gas exchange compared to irrigated controls under water deficit; this effect is associated with modified leaf turgor but not with improved petiole vulnerability to cavitation.
A key feature for the prosperity of plants under changing environments is the plasticity of their hydraulic system. In the present research we studied the hydraulic regulation in grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) that were first acclimated for 39 days to well-watered (WW), sustained water deficit (SD), or transientcycles of dehydrationrehydrationwater deficit (TD) conditions, and then subjected to varying degrees of drought. Vine development under SD led to the smallest leaves and petioles, but the TD vines had the smallest mean xylem vessel and calculated specific conductivity (kts). Unexpectedly, both the water deficit acclimation treatments resulted in vines more vulnerable to cavitation in comparison to WW, possibly as a result of developmental differences or cavitation fatigue. When exposed to drought, the SD vines maintained the highest stomatal (gs) and leaf conductance (kleaf) under low stem water potential (s), despite their high xylem vulnerability and in agreement with their lower turgor loss point (TLP). These findings suggest that the down-regulation of kleaf and gs is not associated with embolism, and the ability of drought-acclimated vines to maintain hydraulic conductance and gas exchange under stressed conditions is more likely associated with the leaf turgor and membrane permeability.