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Exogenously applied zinc and copper mitigate salinity effect in maize (Zea mays L.) by improving key physiological and biochemical attributes

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Zinc or copper deficiency and salinity are known soil problems and often occur simultaneously in agriculture soils. Plants undergo various changes in physiological and biochemical processes to respond to high salt in the growing medium. There is lack of information on the relation of exogenous application of Zn and Cu with important salinity tolerance mechanisms in plants. Therefore, the present study was conducted to determine the effect of foliar Zn and Cu on two maize cultivars (salt-tolerant cv. Yousafwala Hybrid and salt-sensitive cv. Hybrid 1898). Salinity caused a significant reduction in water and turgor potentials, stomatal conductance, and transpiration and photosynthetic rate, while increase in glycine betaine, proline, total soluble sugars, and total free amino acids was evident in plants under saline regimes. Furthermore, there was significant decline in P, N, Ca, K, Mn, Fe, Zn, and Cu and increase in Na and Cl contents in plants fed with NaCl salinity. Nitrate reductase activity was lower in salt-stressed plants. However, foliar application of Zn and Cu circumvented salinity effect on water relations, photosynthesis, and nutrition and this was attributed to the better antioxidant system and enhanced accumulation of glycine betaine, proline, total free amino acids, and sugars. The results of the present study suggested that Zn application was superior to Cu for mediating plant defense responses under salinity.

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The work presented in this manuscript is a part of Ph.D. work of Mr. Naveed Iqbal. The data reported in the manuscript have been taken from Mr. Naveed Iqbal’s Ph.D. thesis submitted to Government College University Faisalabad, Pakistan, and Higher Education Commission, Pakistan.

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Correspondence to Rizwan Rasheed.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Iqbal, M.N., Rasheed, R., Ashraf, M.Y. et al. Exogenously applied zinc and copper mitigate salinity effect in maize (Zea mays L.) by improving key physiological and biochemical attributes. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 23883–23896 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-2383-6

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  • Osmotic adjustment
  • Oxidative defense
  • Nutrient relation
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Sugars
  • Total free amino acids