Cassava’s (Manihot esculenta Crantz) importance as a food security crop in Sub Saharan Africa is enhanced by its special traits such as tolerance to drought and high yields under drought stress. However, full understanding of tolerance mechanisms under hydrothermal stress in cassava is a key in developing highly tolerant varieties with increased yield. In our study, the effects of low soil moisture and increased temperature on cassava physiology were investigated. Twenty (20) cassava varieties were evaluated in a Randomized Complete Block Design in western Uganda. Hydrothermal stress was described as a period of no rainfall for a period of eight weeks leading to low soil moisture (contents between 28 to 35%) and average daily temperatures of ≥35°C. The average daily relative humidity during this period was considerably low (≤40%) further complementing already enhanced stress conditions. As such, the contents of important biochemicals and secondary metabolites in the plants were altered in a bid to counteract the effects of stress. Significant differences occurred in accumulation of main biochemicals such as soluble proteins (P<0.05), free reducing sugars (P<0.05) and bound reducing sugars (P<0.05) while reductions in the total starch yield by 70 to 100% of the original composition before stress were observed in all the test varieties. Changes in pigment properties were also observed with a decrease in the total carotenoid content (~65%) and chlorophyll a (Chla) (~40%) but no significant changes were observed for chlorophyll b (Chlb). Secondary metabolites such as phenolics and tannins too depicted varied but non-significant changes and they existed in low quantities. There were also significant changes in the phenotype (foliar portion of the plant) with at least two mechanisms of tolerance identified. The study showed the importance of carbohydrate and nitrogen cycle related metabolites in mediating tolerance in cassava by affecting their phenotypic expression in the plant.
Key words: Hydrothermal stress, bio-chemicals, pigments, secondary metabolites, cassava.
Copyright © 2022 Author(s) retain the copyright of this article.
This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0