Skip to main content

DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcac118

Anatomical determinants of gas exchange and hydraulics vary with leaf shape in soybean

Bishal Tamang, Yanqun Zhang, Michelle Zambrano, Elizabeth Ainsworth


Background and aims

Leaf shape in crops can impact light distribution and carbon capture at the whole plant and canopy level. Given similar leaf inclination, narrow leaves can allow a greater fraction of incident light to pass through to lower canopy leaves by reducing leaf area index, which can potentially increase canopy-scale photosynthesis. Soybean has natural variation in leaf shape which can be utilized to optimize canopy architecture. However, the anatomical and physiological differences underlying variation in leaf shape remain largely unexplored.


In this study, we selected 28 diverse soybean lines with leaf length to width ratios (leaf ratio) ranging between 1.1 and 3.2. We made leaf cross-sectional, gas exchange, vein density and hydraulic measurements and studied their interrelationships among these lines.

Key results

Our study shows that narrow leaves tend to be thicker, with an ~30 µm increase in leaf thickness for every unit increase in leaf ratio. Interestingly, thicker leaves had a greater proportion of spongy mesophyll while the proportions of palisade and paraveinal mesophyll decreased. In addition, narrow and thicker leaves had greater photosynthesis and stomatal conductance per unit area along with greater leaf hydraulic conductance.


Our results suggest that selecting for narrow leaves can improve photosynthetic performance and potentially provide a yield advantage in soybean.

Go to original publication Download PDF