Plant and Soil

, Volume 426, Issue 1–2, pp 313–325 | Cite as

The best salt solution parameter to describe seed/seedling responses to saline and sodic salts

  • Hongxiang Zhang
  • Yu Tian
  • Bo Guan
  • Daowei Zhou
  • Zewei Sun
  • Carol C. Baskin
Regular Article


Background and aims

Results of studies on plant responses to salt stress often are difficult to compare because different salt parameters were used. Our aim was to compare the effects of different combinations of sodium salts on germination/seedling growth of two forage species and determine which salt solution parameter(s) was(were) most closely related to these responses.


Seeds of the legume Medicago sativa and the grass Elymus dahuricus were germinated in different concentrations of saline and sodic salts. Various parameters of the salt solutions were determined, and seed germination and seedling growth metrics were measured.


Seeds of both species were more tolerant to saline than to sodic salts, and seedlings of E. dahuricus were more salt tolerant than those of M. sativa. Na2SO4 and Na2CO3 were more inhibitory to germination/growth of the two study species than the same concentration of NaCl and NaHCO3 for saline and sodic salts, respectively. For both species, electrical conductivity, salt content (%) and Na+ concentration best correlated with germination/growth for saline salts and Na+ concentration for sodic salts.


In evaluating the effects of salt on seed germination and seedling growth, both saline and sodic salts need to be considered, and Na+ concentration is the best salt solution parameter to use in comparing and communicating the results.


EC Na+ pH Saline salts Sodic salts Water potential 



Electrical conductivity


Water potential


Salt concentration


Salt content


Germination percentage


Time to start of germination


Root length


Shoot length


Chlorophyll content



We thank Ms. Zongying Hu for help with the experiments and Prof. Jerry Baskin for his useful comments on the manuscript. This study was funded by the National Basic Research Program of China (2015CB150800) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41571055).

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3623_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 31.9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jilin Provincial Laboratory of Grassland Farming, Northeast Institute of Geography and AgroecologyChinese Academy of SciencesChangchunChina
  2. 2.Animal Science and Technology CollegeJilin Agricultural UniversityChangchunChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Coastal Environmental Processes and Ecological Remediation, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina
  4. 4.Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA and Department of Plant and Soil SciencesUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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