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Leaf architecture, lignification, and tensile strength during vegetative phase change in Zea mays

Author(s): Ronald A. Balsamo | Joseph A.J. Orkwiszewski

Journal: Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae
ISSN 0001-6977

Volume: 77;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 181;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Keywords: leaf architecture | leaf biomechanics | lignification | vegetative development | Zea mays

Background and Aims: Leaf morphology, anatomy, degree of lignification, and tensile strength were studied during vegetative phase change in an inbred line of Zea mays (OH43 x W23) to determine factors that influence mechanical properties during development. Methods: Tensometer, light microscopy, histochemistry. Key results: Mature leaf length increased linearly with plant development, peaked at leaves 7 and 8 (corresponding to the onset of the adult phase) and then declined. Leaf width was stable for leaves 1 through 3, increased to leaf 7, remained stable to leaf 10, and then declined through leaf 13. Lamina thickness was highest for leaf 1 and decreased throughout development. Leaf failure load to width ratio and failure load to thickness ratio increased with development suggesting that changes in leaf morphology during development do not entirely account for increases in failure load. Histochemical analyses revealed that leaf tensile strength correlates with percent lignification and the onset of anatomical adult features at various developmental stages. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that in Zea mays lignification of the midrib parenchyma and epidermis may be directly correlated with increased tensile strength associated with phase change from juvenility to adulthood. Failure load and resultant tensile strength values are primarily determined by the percent tissue lignification and the appearance of leaf architectural characters that are associated with the transition from the juvenile to the adult phase. Increased mechanical stability that occurs during the phase transition from juvenility to adulthood may signify a fundamental change in strategy for an individual plant from rapid growth (survival) to reproduction.
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