Aims: This study investigated the influence of climate and soil on the exudation rate and polysaccharide composition of aerial nodal root mucilage from drought-resistant and drought-susceptible maize varieties.
Methods: Two maize varieties were grown in two different soils (sandy-clay loam Acrisol and loam Luvisol) under simulated climatic conditions of their agroecological zones of origin in Kenya and Germany. The exudation rate of mucilage from the aerial nodal roots was quantified as dry weight per root tip per day and the mucilage was characterized for its polysaccharide composition.
Results: On average, the mucilage exudation rate was 35.8% higher under the Kenyan semi-arid tropical than under the German humid temperate climatic conditions. However, cultivation in the loam Luvisol soil from Germany led to 73.7% higher mucilage exudation rate than cultivation in the sandy-clay loam Acrisol soil from Kenya, plausibly due to its higher microbial biomass and nutrient availability. The drought-resistant Kenyan maize variety exuded 58.2% more mucilage than the drought-susceptible German variety. On average, mucilage polysaccharides were composed of 40.6% galactose, 26.2% fucose, 13.1% mannose, 11% arabinose, 3.5% glucose, 3.2% xylose, 1.3% glucuronic acid, and 1% an unknown uronic acid. Overall, significantly higher proportions of the uronic acids were found in the mucilage of the plants grown in the Kenyan sandy-clay loam soil and under the Kenyan semi-arid tropical climatic conditions.
Conclusions: Maize is able to enhance its mucilage exudation rate under warm climatic conditions and in soils of high microbial activity to mitigate water stress and support the rhizosphere microbiome, respectively.