Physiological Evaluation of Alkali-Salt Tolerance of Thirty Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) Lines
Ervin, Erik H.
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Soil salt-alkalization is a major limiting factor for crop production in many regions. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm-season C4 perennial rhizomatous bunchgrass and a target lignocellulosic biofuel species. The objective of this study was to evaluate relative alkali-salt tolerance among 30 switchgrass lines. Tillers of each switchgrass line were transplanted into pots filled with fine sand. Two months after transplanting, plants at E5 developmental stage were grown in either half strength Hoagland’s nutrient solution with 0 mM Na+ (control) or half strength Hoagland’s nutrient solution with 150 mM Na+ and pH of 9.5 (alkali-salt stress treatment) for 20 d. Alkali-salt stress damaged cell membranes [higher electrolyte leakage (EL) ], reduced leaf relative water content (RWC), net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (gs), and transpiration rate (Tr). An alkali-salt stress tolerance trait index (ASTTI) for each parameter was calculated based on the ratio of the value under alkali-salt stress and the value under non-stress conditions for each parameter of each line. Relative alkali-salt tolerance was determined based on principal components analysis and cluster analysis of the physiological parameters and their ASTTI values. Significant differences in alkali-salt stress tolerance were found among the 30 lines. Lowland lines TEM-SEC, Alamo, TEM-SLC and Kanlow were classified as alkali-salt tolerant. In contrast, three lowland lines (AM-314/MS-155, BN-13645-64) and two upland lines (Caddo and Blackwell-1) were classified as alkali-salt sensitive. The results suggest wide variations exist in alkali-salt stress tolerance among the 30 switchgrass lines. The approach of using a combination of principal components and cluster analysis of the physiological parameters and related ASTTI is feasible for evaluating alkali-salt tolerance in switchgrass.