Physiological responses of three soybean species (Glycine soja, G. gracilis, and G. max cv. Melrose) to salinity stress


Understanding the mechanism for salt tolerance in wild soybean (Glycine soja) can help researchers improve that trait in cultivated soybean lines. We analyzed the effects of excess NaCl on the growth, physiology, and ion distribution in three soybean species: wild G. soja (W8), semi-wild G. gracilis (SW18), and the cultivated salt-sensitive G. max (cv. Melrose). These comparisons revealed that, under salt stress, shoot and root lengths and biomass (either shoot or root dry weights) were significantly higher for the W8 genotype than for the other two. Most of the morphological parameters for roots from the W8 plants were also increased, including total length, specific root length, and surface area. However, the average root diameter for W8 was significantly lower than that of either SW18 or ‘Melrose’ soybeans. In response to salinity, photosynthesis was suppressed to a greater extent in ‘Melrose’ than in W8. The relatively higher tolerance shown by W8 plants was also associated with lower levels of malondialdehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and relative electrical conductivity, but higher activities by superoxide dismutase and peroxidase, as well as more free proline and glycine betaine. In addition, the W8 plants contained less Na+ and Cl, but more K+, and they had a higher K+/Na+ ratio in their leaves and roots when compared with either SW18 or ‘Melrose’ plants. Therefore, the W8 genotype performs better in terms of seedling growth, photosynthetic characteristics, and physiological indexes. These findings provide guidance for developing new soybean cultivars with improved tolerance to salt stress. Our data also contribute to the knowledge base for plant salt tolerance as a tool for increasing the yields of other crops in high-salinity soils.

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This research was supported by the Science & Technology Research and Development Guidance Plan of Baoding City, Cutting-edge and Characteristic Disciplines of Biology (Botany), Key subject of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Project No. 11ZF096), and funded by Heibei Province construction project in top discipline of biology. The authors are grateful to Dr. Priscilla Licht for the critical reading of manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shuling Zhang or Jianfeng Liu.

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Liu, H., Song, J., Dong, L. et al. Physiological responses of three soybean species (Glycine soja, G. gracilis, and G. max cv. Melrose) to salinity stress. J Plant Res 130, 723–733 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10265-017-0929-1

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  • Soybean
  • Salt stress
  • Plant growth
  • Photosynthetic parameters
  • Physiological indexes