Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (6): 635-648.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0061

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles    

Mechanisms underlying the effects of fall dormancy on the cold acclimation and winter hard- iness of Medicago sativa

LIU Zhi-Ying1, LI Xi-Liang1, LI Feng1, WANG Zong-Li1,2,*(), SUN Qi-Zhong1,*()   

  1. 1Institute of Grassland Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hohhot 010010, China
    2Animal Husbandry Department, Ministry of Agriculture of China, Beijing 100125, China
  • Received:2015-01-17 Accepted:2015-03-31 Online:2015-07-02 Published:2015-06-01
  • Contact: Zong-Li WANG,Qi-Zhong SUN;
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors


As a global planting forage legume, alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a valuable material to study the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms on plant adaptation to freezing due to their contrasting winter hardiness induced by fall dormancy (FD). This paper reveals that FD is an important growth characteristic that is adaptative to short-day and reducing temperature in late autumn, followed by a higher overwintering rate. Alfalfa cultivars are grouped into 11 FD ratings (numbered from 1 to 11), and this phenomenon is related to the extensive spread and cultivation for thousands of years in the globe. Alfalfa cultivars are under different climate habitats for a long time, leading to FD adaptive evolution, which provides rich genetic resources for human. In general, adaptative process associated with cold acclimation and winter hardiness in alfalfa is affected by FD, thus differences in winter hardiness exist among alfalfa cultivars. So far, regulation of FD by light and temperature and effects of FD on physiological and ecological processes involved in cold acclimation have been reported largely. However, signal transduction and the regulatory network associated with gene expression, especially the molecular mechanisms by which antifreeze proteins function in cold adaptation, are still poorly understood. Several scientific problems that need to be addressed in the future studies are highlighted in this review.

Key words: fall dormancy, winter hardiness, cold acclimation, overwintering rate, Medicago sativa

Fig. 1

Main spread paths of alfalfa globally and its historical trace. The figure was redrawn according to the related literatures (Hanson et al., 1988; Michaud et al., 1988; Warburton & Smith, 1993; Bauchan & Hossain, 2001; Segovia-Lerma et al., 2004; Muller et al., 2006; Hong, 2009; Li et al., 2012). Different lines represented different spread paths of alfalfa from Iran (●) to the world, the data in the figure showed the place and date of alfalfa introduction (BC, before Christ; AD, anno Domini)."

Fig. 2

Possible function process of fall dormancy and its control on the cold acclimation and winter hardiness of alfalfa."

Fig. 3

The role of epigenetics and transcription factors in plant response to cold signal. The figure was redrawn according to the related literatures (Bruce et al., 2007; Santos et al., 2011; Grativol et al., 2012)."

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