Fast and effective glasshouse screening techniques that could identify genetic variation in salinity tolerance were tested. The objective was to produce screening techniques for selecting salt-tolerant progeny in breeding programs in which genes for salinity tolerance have been introduced by either conventional breeding or genetic engineering. A set of previously unexplored tetraploid wheat genotypes, from five subspecies of Triticum turgidum, were used in a case study for developing and validating glasshouse screening techniques for selecting for physiologically based traits that confer salinity tolerance. Salinity tolerance was defined as genotypic differences in biomass production in saline versus non-saline conditions over prolonged periods, of 3–4 weeks. Short-term experiments (1 week) measuring either biomass or leaf elongation rates revealed large decreases in growth rate due to the osmotic effect of the salt, but little genotypic differences, although there were genotypic differences in long-term experiments. Specific traits were assessed. Na+ exclusion correlated well with salinity tolerance in the durum subspecies, and K+/Na+ discrimination correlated to a lesser degree. Both traits were environmentally robust, being independent of root temperature and factors that might influence transpiration rates such as light level. In the other four T. turgidum subspecies there was no correlation between salinity tolerance and Na+ accumulation or K+/Na+ discrimination, so other traits were examined. The trait of tolerance of high internal Na+ was assessed indirectly, by measuring chlorophyll retention. Five landraces were selected as maintaining green healthy leaves despite high levels of Na+ accumulation. Factors affecting field performance of genotypes selected by trait-based techniques are discussed.
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