Salt sensitivity in chickpea: Growth, photosynthesis, seed yield components and tissue ion regulation in contrasting genotypes

Hammad Aziz Khan, Kadambot H M Siddique, Rushna Munir, Timothy David Colmer
Journal of Plant Physiology 2015 June 15, 182: 1-12
Chickpea is a relatively salt sensitive species but shows genotypic variation for salt tolerance, measured as grain yield per plant in mild-to-moderately saline soil. This experiment was designed to evaluate some physiological responses to salinity in three contrasting genotypes. One tolerant (Genesis836), one moderately tolerant (JG11) and one sensitive (Rupali) genotype were grown for 108d in non-saline nutrient solution (controls) and two levels of salinity treatment (30 and 60mM NaCl). No plants survived to maturity in the 60mM NaCl treatment; however, Genesis836 survived longer (87d) than JG11 (67d) while Rupali died after 27d; only Genesis836 flowered, but no pods were filled. At 30mM NaCl, Genesis836 produced a few filled pods, whereas JG11 and Rupali did not. Genotypic differences in plant dry mass at the vegetative stage were evident only at 60mM NaCl, while at maturity differences were evident at 30mM NaCl. Photosynthesis was maintained to different degrees by the three genotypes (e.g. at 30mM NaCl, 35-81% of controls; highest in Genesis836); photosynthesis was restricted predominately due to non-stomatal limitations as the intercellular CO2 concentration was only modestly affected (94-99% of controls). Photosystem II damage was evident in the less tolerant genotypes (e.g. at 30mM NaCl, actual quantum efficiency of photosystem II values were 63-96% of controls). Across treatments, shoot dry mass was negatively correlated with both Na(+) and Cl(-) shoot concentrations. However, the sensitive genotype (Rupali) had equal or lower concentrations of these ions in green leaves, stems or roots compared to tolerant genotypes (JG11 and Genesis836); ion 'exclusion' does not explain variation for salt tolerance among these three chickpea genotypes. The large difference between Rupali (sensitive) and Genesis836 (tolerant) in the salt-induced reduction in net photosynthesis via non-stomatal limitations and the assessed damage to photosystem II, but with similar leaf ion concentrations, provides evidence that variation in 'tissue tolerance' of Na(+) and/or Cl(-) in leaves contributes to the differential salt tolerance of these chickpea genotypes.

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