This study was conducted to evaluate the influence of seed priming on drought tolerance of pigmented and non-pigmented rice. Seeds of pigmented (cv. Heug Jinju Byeo) and non-pigmented (cv. Anjoong) rice were soaked in water (hydropriming) or solution of CaCl2 (osmopriming). Seeds were sown in soil-filled pots retained at 70 (well-watered) and 35% (drought) water-holding capacity. Drought stress caused erratic and poor stand establishment and decreased the growth of both rice types. More decrease in plant height and leaf area under drought stress was noted in pigmented rice, whereas decrease in root length and seedling dry weight, under drought, was more obvious in non-pigmented rice. Pigmented rice maintained more tissue water and photosynthesis and had more polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidant activity than non-pigmented rice. Seed priming was effective in improving stand establishment, growth, polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidant activity; however, extent of improvement was more in pigmented rice under drought. In conclusion, drought caused erratic germination and suppressed plant growth in both rice types. However, pigmented rice had better drought tolerance owing to uniform emergence, and better physiological and morphological plasticity. Seed priming was quite helpful in improving the performance of both rice types under drought and well-watered conditions.
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