Sodium Chloride in Nutrient Solutions Can Affect Onion Growth and Flavor Development

in HortScience
Authors:
Pai-Tsang ChangDepartment of Horticulture, 1111 Plant Sciences Building, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7273

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William M. RandleDepartment of Horticulture, 1111 Plant Sciences Building, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7273

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Onion is classified as a salt-sensitive crop, though it is found in production on saline soils around the world. While onion flavor intensity has been studied in response to various growing conditions, little is known about its response to salt stress. To understand if NaCl affects growth, flavor development, and mineral content in onion, `Granex 33' plants were grown to maturity with six different concentrations of NaCl ranging from 0 (control) to 125 mm in nutrient solutions. NaCl affected onion fresh weight and altered onion flavor intensity and quality. Plants did not survive the 125 mm NaCl treatments and are not included in the results. As bulb Na+ and Cl- content increased in response to increasing NaCl concentrations, leaf and bulb fresh weight of mature plants decreased. Total bulb S content also decreased with increasing NaCl solution concentrations, while bulb SO42- content increasing linearly, indicating that less S was entering the S metabolic stream. Though bulb soluble solids content was not influenced by NaCl concentrations, pungency increased, but only at the highest NaCl concentration. Total flavor precursors and methyl cysteine sulfoxide content increased in response to NaCl, but only at the 100 mm treatment. 1-Propenyl cysteine sulfoxide was generally unresponsive to the salt treatment. Propyl cysteine sulfoxide content decreased then increased in responses to increasing NaCl levels, but was found as a minor flavor precursor. Peptide intermediates measured in the pathway leading to 1-propenyl cysteine sulfoxide and propyl cysteine sulfoxide decreased linearly with increasing NaCl exposure. While NaCl affected onion flavor in this study, severe reductions in growth would prevent onion production under similar saline conditions. For practical purposes, the effects of NaCl on flavor are, therefore, minimal.

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