Comparative Performance of Multivariable Agro-Physiological Parameters for Detecting Salt Tolerance of Wheat Cultivars under Simulated Saline Field Growing Conditions
Hydroponic experiment was conducted to appraise variation in the salt tolerance potential of two wheat cultivars (salt tolerant, S-24, and moderately salt sensitive, MH-97) at different growth stages. These two wheat cultivars are not genetically related as evident from randomized polymorphic DNA analysis (random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)) which revealed 28% genetic diversity. Salinity stress caused a marked reduction in grain yield of both wheat cultivars. However, cv. S-24 was superior to cv. MH-97 in maintaining grain yield under saline stress. Furthermore, salinity caused a significant variation in different physiological attributes measured at different growth stages. Salt stress caused considerable reduction in different water relation attributes of wheat plants. A significant reduction in leaf water, osmotic, and turgor potentials was recorded in both wheat cultivars at different growth stages. Maximal reduction in leaf water potential was recorded at the reproductive stage in both wheat cultivars. In contrast, maximal turgor potential was observed at the boot stage. Salt-induced adverse effects of salinity on different water relation attributes were more prominent in cv. MH-97 as compared to those in cv. S-24. Salt stress caused a substantial decrease in glycine betaine and alpha tocopherols. These biochemical attributes exhibited significant salt-induced variation at different growth stages in both wheat cultivars. For example, maximal accumulation of glycine betaine was evident at the early growth stages (vegetative and boot). However, cv. S-24 showed higher accumulation of this organic osmolyte, and this could be the reason for maintenance of higher turgor than that of cv. MH-97 under stress conditions. Salt stress significantly increased the endogenous levels of toxic ions (Na(+) and Cl(-)) and decreased essential cations (K(+) and Ca(2+)) in both wheat cultivars at different growth stages. Furthermore, K(+)/Na(+) and Ca(2+)/Na(+) ratios decreased markedly due to salt stress in both wheat cultivars at different growth stages, and this salt-induced reduction was more prominent in cv. MH-97. Moreover, higher K(+)/Na(+) and Ca(2+)/Na(+) ratios were recorded at early growth stages in both wheat cultivars. It can be inferred from the results that wheat plants are more prone to adverse effects of salinity stress at early growth stages than that at the reproductive stage.