Ecophysiological response of Crambe maritima to airborne and soil-borne salinity

Arjen C de Vos, Rob Broekman, Maartje P Groot, Jelte Rozema
Annals of Botany 2010, 105 (6): 925-37

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: There is a need to evaluate the salt tolerance of plant species that can be cultivated as crops under saline conditions. Crambe maritima is a coastal plant, usually occurring on the driftline, with potential use as a vegetable crop. The aim of this experiment was to determine the growth response of Crambe maritima to various levels of airborne and soil-borne salinity and the ecophysiological mechanisms underlying these responses.

METHODS: In the greenhouse, plants were exposed to salt spray (400 mM NaCl) as well as to various levels of root-zone salinity (RZS) of 0, 50, 100, 200 and 300 mM NaCl during 40 d. The salt tolerance of Crambe maritima was assessed by the relative growth rate (RGR) and its components. To study possible salinity effects on the tissue and cellular level, the leaf succulence, tissue Na(+) concentrations, Na(+) : K(+) ratio, net K(+)/Na(+) selectivity, N, P, K(+), Ca(2+), Mg(2+), proline, soluble sugar concentrations, osmotic potential, total phenolics and antioxidant capacity were measured.

KEY RESULTS: Salt spray did not affect the RGR of Crambe maritima. However, leaf thickness and leaf succulence increased with salt spray. Root zone salinities up to 100 mM NaCl did not affect growth. However, at 200 mM NaCl RZS the RGR was reduced by 41 % compared with the control and by 56 % at 300 mM NaCl RZS. The reduced RGR with increasing RZS was largely due to the reduced specific leaf area, which was caused by increased leaf succulence as well as by increased leaf dry matter content. No changes in unit leaf rate were observed but increased RZS resulted in increased Na(+) and proline concentrations, reduced K(+), Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) concentrations, lower osmotic potential and increased antioxidant capacity. Proline concentrations of the leaves correlated strongly (r = 0.95) with RZS concentrations and not with plant growth.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on its growth response, Crambe maritima can be classified as a salt spray tolerant plant that is sensitive to root zone salinities exceeding 100 mM NaCl.

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