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Home HortScience Novel Method Determines Plant Saline Tolerance
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ZARAGOZA, SPAIN - Salinity is an increasing problem in agriculture, often resulting in serious negative effects on the environment and crop production efforts. It is a particularly common problem in arid and semi-arid areas where evapotranspiration - evaporation of water from soil combined with transpiration of water from plants - exceeds precipitation, making irrigation necessary to meet water demands.

Looking for ways to combat salinity, improve crop yields and support agriculture in these marginal environments, scientists are seeking ways to measure and increase crop salt tolerance. Plants' response to saline environments has historically been determined by measuring characteristics such as emergence, survival, growth, and commodity yields. Salt tolerance varies among species and genotypes of plants, making evaluation of these differences cumbersome since whole plants are highly complex systems that show a variety of responses depending on the applied methodology.

Researchers in Spain have introduced a new method for determining saline tolerance they say has distinct advantages over traditional models. "We investigated a novel approach using excised roots as a simplified experimental model," explained author Pilar Andreu. "Instead of studying the effect of salt stress in whole plants or in plant parts distant from the origin of salt source, we examined the responses of isolated roots to salt stress in vitro in controlled culture conditions without the influence of substrates and microorganisms."  The study was first published in HortScience.

Excised root cultures were grown in vitro under increasing salt concentrations (0, 20, 60, and 180 mM). Root tips taken from in vitro-rooted shoots of Prunus species with different salt tolerance were measured after three weeks of culture in a shaker, and changes in their anatomy were examined.

"Both growth and starch content of in vitro root cultures were affected by salt concentration. Root length increments were related to salt stress tolerance at 60mM NaCl, in which significant differences were also found between species," the study reported. The results also showed a significant inverse correlation between salt tolerance and starch accumulation in the maturation zone of root tips.

"Our results showed that excised root culture could be a useful model to study tolerance to salt stress in Prunus species. We found that the degree of tolerance to salt stress shown in root cultures was consistent with previous findings in related genotypes in whole plant studies," Andreu explained, adding that the new method has the advantage of being simple, reproducible, and rapid.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:

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Original Article:

Early Detection of Salt Stress Tolerance of Prunus Rootstocks by Excised Root Culture
Pilar Andreu, Arancha Arbeloa, Pilar Lorente, and Juan A. Marín
HortScience 46:80–85. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

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