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Xuan Liu and Donald L. Suarez

Soil salinization is a widespread problem severely impacting crop production. Understanding how salt stress affects growth-controlling photosynthetic performance is essential for improving crop salt tolerance and alleviating the salt impact. Lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus) is an important crop, but little information is available on its growth and leaf gas exchange in relation to a wide range of salinity. In this study, the responses of leaf gas exchange and whole plant growth of lima bean (cv. Fordhook 242) to six salinities with electrical conductivity (EC) of 2.9 (control), 5.7, 7.8, 10.0, 13.0, and 15.5 dS·m−1 in irrigation waters were assessed. Significant linear reduction by increasing salinity was observed on plant biomass, bean yield, and leaf net carbon assimilation rate (A). As EC increased from the control to 15.5 dS·m−1, plant biomass and A decreased by 87% and 69%, respectively, at the vegetative growth stage, and by 96% and 83%, respectively, at the pod growth stage, and bean yield decreased by 98%. Judged by the linear relations, the reduction in A accounted for a large portion of the growth reduction and bean yield loss. Salinity also had a significantly negative and linear effect on leaf stomatal conductance (g S). Leaf intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci) and leaf C13 isotope discrimination (Δ13) declined in parallel significantly with increasing salinity. The A-Ci curve analysis revealed that stomatal limitation [L g (percent)] to A increased significantly and linearly, from 18% to 78% and from 22% to 87% at the vegetative and pod-filling stages, respectively, as EC increased from the control to the highest level. Thus, relatively nonstomatal or biochemical limitation [L m (percent), L m = 100 − L g] to A responded negatively to increasing salinity. This result is coincident with the observed Δ13 salt-response trend. Furthermore, leaf carboxylation efficiency and CO2-saturated photosynthetic capacity [maximum A (Amax)] were unaffected by increasing salinity. Our results strongly indicate that the reduction in lima bean A by salt stress was mainly due to stomatal limitation and biochemical properties for photosynthesis might not be impaired. Because stomatal limitation reduces A exactly from lowering CO2 availability to leaves, increasing CO2 supply with an elevated CO2 concentration may raise A of the salt-stressed lima bean leaves and alleviate the salt impact. This is supported by our finding that the external CO2 concentration for 50% of Amax increased significantly and linearly with increasing salinity at the both growth stages. Leaf water use efficiency showed an increasing trend and no evident decline in leaf chlorophyll soil plant analysis development (SPAD) readings was observed as salinity increased.

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Dean A. Martens and Donald L. Suarez

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Clyde Wilson, Xuan Liu, Scott M. Lesch, and Donald L. Suarez

Over the last several years, there has been increasing interest in amending the soil using cover crops, especially in desert agriculture. One cover crop of interest in the desert Coachella Valley of California is cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. Cowpea is particularly useful in that as an excellent cover crop, fixing abundant amounts of nitrogen which can reduce fertilizer costs. However, soil salinity problems are of increasing concern in the Coachella Valley of California where the Colorado River water is a major source of irrigation water. Unfortunately, little information is available on the response of cowpea growth to salt stress. Thus, we investigated the growth response of 12 major cowpea cultivars (`CB5', `CB27', `CB46', `IT89KD-288', `IT93K-503-1', `Iron Clay', `Speckled Purple Hall', `UCR 134', `UCR 671', `UCR 730', `8517', and `7964') to increasing salinity levels. The experiment was set up as a standard Split Plot design. Seven salinity levels ranging from 2.6 to 20.1 dS·m–1 were constructed, based on Colorado River water salt composition, to have NaCl, CaCl2 and MgSO4 as the salinization salts. The osmotic potential ranged from –0.075 to –0.82 MPa. Salt stress began 7 days after planting by adding the salts into irrigating nutrient solution and ended after 5 consecutive days. The plants were harvested during flowering period for biomass measurement (53 days after planting). Data analysis using SAS analysis of variance indicated that the salinity in the range between 2.6 and 20.1 dS·m–1 significantly reduced leaf area, leaf dry weight, stem dry weight and root dry weight (P ≤ 0.05). We applied the data to a salt-tolerance model, log(Y) = a1 + a2X + a3X2, where Y represents biomass, a1, a2 and a3 are empirical constants, and X represents salinity, and found that the model accounted for 99%, 97%, 96%, 99%, and 96% of salt effect for cowpea shoot, leaf area, leaf dry weight, stem dry weight and root dry weight, respectively. We also found significant differences (P ≤ 0.05) of each biomass parameter among the 12 cultivars and obtained different sets of the empirical constants to quantitatively describe the response of each biomass parameter to salinity for individual cowpea cultivars. Since a significant salt × cultivar interaction effect (P ≤ 0.05) was found on leaf area and leaf dry weight, we concluded that salt tolerance differences exist among the tested cultivars.

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Nydia Celis, Donald L. Suarez, Laosheng Wu, Rui Li, Mary Lu Arpaia, and Peggy Mauk

Avocado (Persea americana Mill.) is one of the most salt-sensitive crops and one of the highest value crops per acre. In the United States, avocados are grown primarily in California, in regions experiencing both scarcity of freshwater and salinization of available water supplies. Thus, our objectives were to evaluate avocado rootstocks for salt tolerance and evaluate the relationship between leaf ion concentrations, trunk diameter, leaf burn, and fruit yield. Our field experiment evaluated the salt tolerance of the Hass scion grafted onto 13 different avocado rootstocks using the Brokaw clonal rootstock technique. The experiment consisted of 156 trees arranged in a randomized complete block design with six replications of each saline [electrical conductivity (EC) = 1.5 dS·m–1, Cl = 4.94 mmol·L–1] and nonsaline (EC= 0.65 dS·m–1, Cl = 0.73 mmol·L–1) irrigation water treatment. We collected soil samples and leaves, then analyzed them for major ions. The rootstocks R0.06, R0.07, PP14, and R0.17, which had high concentrations of Cl and Na in the leaves, were the least salt tolerant, with 100% mortality in the rows irrigated with saline water for 23 months. The rootstocks R0.05, PP40, R0.18, and Dusa, which had low concentrations of Cl ions in the fully expanded leaves, were least affected by salinity, and these rootstocks exhibited the greatest yields, largest trunk diameters, and greatest survival percentages in the saline treatment. Yield and growth parameters correlated well with leaf Cl concentration, but not Na, indicating that salt damage in avocado is primarily a result of Cl ion toxicity. Under arid inland environments, no variety performed satisfactorily when irrigated with an EC = 1.5 dS·m–1 water (Cl = 4.94 mmol·L–1). However, the more tolerant varieties survived at soil salinity levels that would apparently be fatal to varieties reported earlier in the literature.

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Stephen R. Grattan, Catherine M. Grieve, James A. Poss, Timothy E. Smith, and Donald L. Suarez

High salinity and boron often occur together in irrigation water in arid climates, but very little research has been done to study the interaction of the two. A greenhouse experiment was conducted at the US Salinity Laboratory in sand tanks to evaluate the interactions between B and saline drainage water on the performance of broccoli. Particular interest in this study was directed towards the composition of the salinizing solution to determine what role various salts have on the salinity-boron interaction. Results from this study indicate that both Cl-based salts and those characteristic of saline drainage water (i.e., a mixture of salts dominated by sodium sulfate) showed a significant salinity–boron interaction. At high salinity, increased B concentration was less detrimental, both visually and quantitatively (i.e., biomass), than it was at low salinity. That is, plants could tolerate a higher solution B-concentration at higher salinity. However, there was no significant difference between salt types. The effects on head weights were more exaggerated than those on shoot biomass. Shoot B concentration was influenced by salinity, but interestingly the direction of influence was dependent upon the B concentration in the solution. Regardless of the composition of the salinizing solution, increased salinity increased shoot B concentration when B concentrations in the solution were relatively low (i.e., 0.5 mg·L-1). At the highest solution B concentration (28 mg·L-1), increased salinity reduced shoot B concentration. Solution B in itself had very little influence on shoot ion accumulation, but both salinity (i.e., EC) and salinity composition had very strong influences on shoot tissue ion composition. Therefore, these data indicate that salinity and B are antagonistic.