We investigated the response of two Sicilian grapevine cultivars, Catarratto and Nero d’Avola, to potassium deficiency and drought stress. Two-year-old plants grafted on 1103 Paulsen were grown in agriperlite, with or without potassium in the fertigation solution for six weeks, and subjected to moderate drought stress by suspending irrigation for one week. Potassium content of leaves, roots and xylem sap were measured with an ion-selective electrode. Changes in stomatal conductance, stem and leaf water potential and hydraulic conductance were compared between genotypes and treatments. Potassium deficiency led to significant decreases in leaf potassium content in both cultivars and under both well-watered and drought stress conditions. Potassium content in xylem sap showed no significant differences between cultivars and was correlated with stem hydraulic conductance, particularly in the drought stress treatments. Under drought stress conditions, potassium availability led to an increase in stomatal conductance, particularly in Nero d’Avola. Both cultivars showed a rather isohydric behavior under these experimental conditions, and the level of isohydry varied with potassium availability. These results can be useful for the development of optimal fertigation practices and the selection of drought tolerant varieties.
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