Legume Research

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Legume Research, volume 45 issue 8 (august 2022) : 952-959

Role of Osmotic Regulation and Cryoprotectant Substances in the Freezing Tolerance of Alfalfa in Cold, Dry Conditions

Hongyu Xu, Yuying Li, Hua Zhong, Xianglin Li
1Institute of Animal Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing-100193, China.
  • Submitted27-02-2022|

  • Accepted26-05-2022|

  • First Online 22-06-2022|

  • doi 10.18805/LRF-684

Cite article:- Xu Hongyu, Li Yuying, Zhong Hua, Li Xianglin (2022). Role of Osmotic Regulation and Cryoprotectant Substances in the Freezing Tolerance of Alfalfa in Cold, Dry Conditions. Legume Research. 45(8): 952-959. doi: 10.18805/LRF-684.
Background: Freezing temperatures are a limiting factor hindering the survival of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) through winter. Soil drought also damages alfalfa crowns and can affect their regeneration. Therefore, it is important to determine the effects of cold, dry conditions on alfalfa to develop effective water management strategies in winter.
Methods: Cold, dry conditions were established in the laboratory and the freezing tolerance of crowns was compared between the alfalfa cultivars ‘WL440HQ’ and ‘ZhaoDong’. The degree of freezing tolerance was estimated on the basis of relative electrolyte leakage and semi-lethal temperature. The effects of cold, dry conditions on alfalfa crowns were determined by investigating the rate of water loss and the concentrations of soluble sugars (which function as cryoprotectants) and betaine and proline (which function as osmoregulation substances). 
Result: Compared with crowns of ‘ZhaoDong’, those of ‘WL440HQ’ showed a higher water loss rate in cold, dry conditions and were irreversibly damaged and their freezing tolerance was severely affected. In comparison, crowns from ‘ZhaoDong’ showed a lower water loss rate and lower relative electrolyte leakage under cold, dry conditions and their freezing tolerance was not significantly affected. The higher water loss rate and lower freezing tolerance were the direct causes of death of ‘WL440HQ’, the cultivar with a higher fall dormancy score. In cold, dry conditions, the content of proline, an osmotic regulation substance, increased in response to soil water deficit and may have improved the ability to withstand freezing temperatures by preventing rapid water loss. In addition, sucrose, fructose, galactose and stachyose contents in the crown increased under cold, dry conditions and may have enhanced freezing tolerance because of their function as cryoprotectants. The results of this study indicate that maintaining soil moisture within the range suitable for the growth of crowns is important for the successful overwintering of alfalfa.

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