Three genotypes of Pennisetum glaucum (IP14599, IP14787and LRNO3) and Zea mays (DTSYN11, LRNO1 and LRIO1) were screened at specified periods of drought stress and evaluated to detect trait signals for drought tolerance. Specific responses were confirmed against drought among all the selected genotypes of both the species. Genotypes of P. glaucum showed high biomass production, increased tolerance index and high plant nutrient content during drought stress. Conversely, genotype DTSYN11 of Z. mays performed better than the LRNO1 and LRIO1 regarding the evaluated traits. Biochemical studies related to protein content, proline, MDA concentration and antioxidants (CAT, APX) accumulation in both the species highlighted that pearl millet genotypes are better adapted than maize under drought stress. The low concentration of MDA and high accumulation of antioxidant enzymes were observed during increased duration of stress, perhaps this provides some extent of osmotic protection and antioxidant defence modulation to the pearl millet genotypes, thus causing protection to the crop. This work explains the capacity of pearl millet related to the defence mechanism over the maize genotypes under drought condition. Hence, pearl millet would be of great relevance in breeding programmes for crop improvement and can serve as a valued reserve to explicate molecular strategies in manipulating drought tolerance to other susceptible crops.
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