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Influence of sub-lethal crude oil concentration on growth, water relations and photosynthetic capacity of maize (Zea mays L.) plants

Abstract

Maize tolerance potential to oil pollution was assessed by growing Zea mays in soil contaminated with varying levels of crude oil (0, 2.5 and 5.0 % v/w basis). Crude oil contamination reduced soil microflora which may be beneficial to plant growth. It was observed that oil pollution caused a remarkable decrease in biomass, leaf water potential, turgor potential, photosynthetic pigments, quantum yield of photosystem II (PSII) (Fv/Fm), net CO2 assimilation rate, leaf nitrogen and total free amino acids. Gas exchange characteristics suggested that reduction in photosynthetic rate was mainly due to metabolic limitations. Fast chlorophyll a kinetic analysis suggested that crude oil damaged PSII donor and acceptor sides and downregulated electron transport as well as PSI end electron acceptors thereby resulting in lower PSII efficiency in converting harvested light energy into biochemical energy. However, maize plants tried to acclimate to moderate level of oil pollution by increasing root diameter and root length relative to its shoot biomass, to uptake more water and mineral nutrients.

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Author information

Correspondence to Habib-ur-Rehman Athar.

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Authors’ contribution

Habib-ur-Rehman Athar and Zafar Ullah Zafar designed the experiment; Sarah Ambreen, Muhammad Javed, Mehwish Hina and Sumaira Rasul conducted the experiment; Muhammad Afzal did the soil analysis and microbial count; Habib-ur-Rehman Athar, Chukwuma C Ogbaga, Hamid Manzoor and Zafar Ullah Zafar did the physiological analysis; and Habib-ur-Rehman Athar, Fahad-Al-Qurainy and Muhammad Ashraf wrote and edited the manuscript. All authors agreed to submit this MS to Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Additional information

Capsule abstract

Oil pollution reduced the maize growth by affecting water relations and thylakoidal and stromal reactions, but it increased root length and thus helped in regulation of water and N uptake during acclimation.

Highlights

• Physiological and biochemical responses of Zea mays grown in soil contaminated with crude oil were assessed.

• Crude oil pollution reduced the growth of maize plants, which is mainly associated with reduction in plant water status, reduction in N accumulation, and reduced photosynthetic rate.

• Plants grown in soil contaminated with 2.5 % tried to acclimate by improving root traits.

• Gas exchange measurements evidenced that reduction in photosynthetic rate due to crude oil was due to non-stomatal factors.

• Fast chlorophyll a kinetic studies showed that reduction in quantum yield of PSII (F v/F m) was associated with PSII damage at both donor and acceptor side.

• Quenching analysis suggested that PSII damage might have been due to lower turnover of D1 protein.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Fig. S1

(Supplementary information) Chlorophyll a transients in the leaves of three week old maize plants grown for further three weeks in soil contaminated with varying concentration of crude oil (v/w). a) raw curves; b) Fo normalized; c) Fm normalized ; d) double normalized curves. (XLSX 211 kb)

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Athar, H., Ambreen, S., Javed, M. et al. Influence of sub-lethal crude oil concentration on growth, water relations and photosynthetic capacity of maize (Zea mays L.) plants. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 18320–18331 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-6976-7

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Keywords

  • JIP test, nitrogen
  • Oil pollution
  • PIABS, photosynthetic rate, water potential