Does the Introgression of Bt Gene Affect Physiological Cotton Response to Water Deficit?

ABSTRACT: Water deficit may affect the expression of lepidoptera-controlling proteins in cotton. However, it is unknown if there is a differential response of conventional and Bt cotton cultivars to water deficit, what could potentially affect the plant competition with weeds. The objective of this work was to investigate the response of Bt cotton cultivars to water deficit compared with their conventional near-isolines. The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse, where the cotton cultivars FMT 705, FMT 709 and IMACD 8276, with and without the Bt gene, were grown under two water regimens: 100% and 50% (moderate water deficit) of available soil water. Cotton phenology was severely affected by moderate water deficit, with a reduction in shoot and root dry matter production, root length and diameter, plant height and leaf area. No effect of the Bt gene was observed. Water deficit during cotton flowering decrease stomatal conductance, net assimilation of CO2 and transpiration rates. The leaf water potential is lower in plants exposed to a moderate water deficit compared with non-stressed plants. However, the introgression of the Bt gene does not modify cotton physiological and phenotypic response to water deficit.