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Physiological and biochemical responses of the forage legume Trifolium alexandrinum to different saline conditions and nitrogen levels

Abstract

Salinity stress reduces plant productivity, but low levels of salinity often increase plant growth rates in some species. We herein describe the effects of salinity on plant growth while focusing on nitrogen use. We treated Trifolium alexandrinum with two nitrogen concentrations and salinity levels and determined growth rates, mineral concentrations, nitrogen use efficiency, photosynthesis rates, and nitrate reductase (NR, E.C. 1.6.6.1) and glutamine synthetase (GS, EC 6.3.1.2) activities. The T. alexandrinum growth rate increased following treatment with 100 mM NaCl in low nitrogen (LN) and high nitrogen (HN) conditions. Salt treatment also increased root volume, intrinsic water use efficiency, and nitrogen use efficiency in LN and HN conditions. These changes likely contributed to higher biomass production. Salinity also increased accumulations of sodium, chloride, and phosphate, but decreased potassium and calcium levels and total nitrogen concentrations in all plant organs independently of the available nitrogen level. However, the effect of salt treatment on magnesium and nitrate concentrations in photosynthetic organs depended on nitrogen levels. Salt treatment reduced photosynthesis rates in LN and HN conditions because of inhibited stomatal conductance. The effects of salinity on leaf NR and GS activities depended on nitrogen levels, with activities increasing in LN conditions. In saline conditions, LN availability resulted in optimal growth because of low chloride accumulation and increases in total nitrogen concentrations, nitrogen use efficiency, and NR and GS activities in photosynthetic organs. Therefore, T. alexandrinum is a legume forage crop that can be cultivated in low-saline soils where nitrogen availability is limited.

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Acknowledgments

This work was financially supported by the Tunisian Ministry of High Education, Scientific Research, and Technology.

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Zouhaier, B., Mariem, M., Mokded, R. et al. Physiological and biochemical responses of the forage legume Trifolium alexandrinum to different saline conditions and nitrogen levels. J Plant Res 129, 423–434 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-016-0791-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-016-0791-6

Keywords

  • Enzyme activity
  • Mineral status
  • Nitrogen
  • Photosynthesis
  • Salinity
  • T. alexandrinum