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Youping Sun, Liqin Li, Yuxiang Wang and Xin Dai

Spirea (Spiraea sp.) plants are popular landscape plants in Utah and the Intermountain West United States. Spiraea betulifolia, S. japonica, S. media, S. nipponica, and S. thunbergii were evaluated for salinity tolerance in a greenhouse experiment. Plants were irrigated weekly with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solution at an EC of 3.0 or 6.0 dS·m−1 for 8 weeks. At the end of the experiment, all spirea plants survived and retained good visual quality, with average visual scores greater than 4 (0 = dead, 5 = excellent) when irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 3.0 dS·m−1, with the exception of S. thunbergii, which showed slight foliar salt damage and an average visual score of 3.8. When irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 6.0 dS·m−1, all S. thunbergii plants died, S. media exhibited severe foliar salt damage and an average visual score of 1.5, and S. betulifolia, S. japonica, and S. nipponica displayed slight-to-moderate foliar salt damage and average visual scores greater than 3. Regardless of spirea species, shoot dry weight decreased by 20% and 48% when irrigated with saline solution at ECs of 3.0 and 6.0 dS·m−1, respectively, compared with the control. Saline solution at an EC of 3.0 dS·m−1 did not affect net photosynthesis (Pn) of all spirea species except S. nipponica, but saline solution at an EC of 6.0 dS·m−1 decreased the Pn of all species by 36% to 60%. There were 37, 7, 36, 21, and 104 times more sodium (Na+) concentrations in leaf and 29, 28, 28, 13, and 69 times more chloride (Cl) concentrations in leaf than in the control when S. betulifolia, S. japonica, S. media, S. nipponica, and S. thunbergii were irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 6.0 dS·m−1. Correlation analyses indicated that foliar salt damage and reduced plant growth and photosynthesis were induced mainly by Cl ions accumulated in the spirea leaves. S. thunbergii was the most sensitive species; it had high mortality and low visual quality at both salinity levels. Spiraea japonica, S. nipponica, and S. betulifolia were relatively more tolerant and had good visual quality at elevated salinity compared with S. media and S. thunbergii. These research results are valuable for growers and landscape professionals during plant selection for nursery production using low-quality water and landscapes in salt-prone areas.

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Yuxiang Wang, Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, Chaoyi Deng, Yi Wang and Jorge Gardea-Torresdey

Ornamental grasses are commonly used in urban landscapes in Utah and the Intermountain West of the United States. The relative salt tolerance of Eragrostis spectabilis (Pursh) Steud. (purple love grass), Miscanthus sinensis Andersson ‘Gracillimus’ (maiden grass), Panicum virgatum L. ‘Northwind’ (switchgrass), and Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash (little bluestem) were evaluated in a greenhouse. Plants were irrigated with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m–1 (control), or saline solution at an EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m–1. At harvest (65 days after the initiation of treatment), P. virgatum and S. scoparium exhibited no foliar salt damage, and E. spectabilis and M. sinensis had minimal foliar salt damage when irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 5.0 dS·m–1. At an EC of 10.0 dS·m–1, P. virgatum and S. scoparium still had no foliar salt damage, but E. spectabilis and M. sinensis displayed slight foliar salt damage, with visual scores greater than 3 (0 = dead; 5 = excellent). Compared with the control, saline solution at an EC of 5.0 and 10.0 dS·m–1 reduced the shoot dry weight of all ornamental grasses by 25% and 46%, respectively. The leaf sodium (Na+) concentration of E. spectabilis, M. sinensis, P. virgatum, and S. scoparium irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 10.0 dS·m–1 increased 14.3, 52.6, 5.3, and 1.7 times, respectively, and the chloride (Cl) concentration increased by 9.4, 11.1, 2.8, and 2.7 times, respectively. As a result of the salt-induced water deficit, plant height, leaf area, number of inflorescences and tillers, net photosynthesis rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (g S), and transpiration rate of four tested ornamental grasses decreased to some extent. Although high Na+ and Cl accumulated in the leaf tissue, all ornamental grass species still had a good visual quality, with average visual scores greater than 3. In conclusion, all ornamental grasses showed a very strong tolerance to the salinity levels used in this research.

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Asmita Paudel, Ji Jhong Chen, Youping Sun, Yuxiang Wang and Richard Anderson

Sego SupremeTM is a designated plant breeding and introduction program at the Utah State University Botanical Center and the Center for Water Efficient Landscaping. This plant selection program introduces native and adapted plants to the arid West for aesthetic landscaping and water conservation. The plants are evaluated for characteristics such as color, flowering, ease of propagation, market demand, disease/pest resistance, and drought tolerance. However, salt tolerance has not been considered during the evaluation processes. Four Sego SupremeTM plants [Aquilegia barnebyi (oil shale columbine), Clematis fruticosa (Mongolian gold clematis), Epilobium septentrionale (northern willowherb), and Tetraneuris acaulis var. arizonica (Arizona four-nerve daisy)] were evaluated for salt tolerance in a greenhouse. Uniform plants were irrigated weekly with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.25 dS·m−1 as control or a saline solution at an EC of 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, or 10.0 dS·m−1 for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks of irrigation, A. barnebyi irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 5.0 dS·m−1 had slight foliar salt damage with an average visual score of 3.7 (0 = dead; 5 = excellent), and more than 50% of the plants were dead when irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 7.5 and 10.0 dS·m−1. However, C. fruticosa, E. septentrionale, and T. acaulis had no or minimal foliar salt damage with visual scores of 4.2, 4.1, and 4.3, respectively, when irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1. As the salinity levels of treatment solutions increased, plant height, leaf area, and shoot dry weight of C. fruticosa and T. acaulis decreased linearly; plant height of A. barnebyi and E. septentrionale also declined linearly, but their leaf area and shoot dry weight decreased quadratically. Compared with the control, the shoot dry weights of A. barnebyi, C. fruticosa, E. septentrionale, and T. acaulis decreased by 71.3%, 56.3%, 69.7%, and 48.1%, respectively, when irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1. Aquilegia barnebyi and C. fruticosa did not bloom during the experiment at all treatments. Elevated salinity reduced the number of flowers in E. septentrionale and T. acaulis. Elevated salinity also reduced the number of shoots in all four species. Among the four species, sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl) concentration increased the most in A. barnebyi by 53 and 48 times, respectively, when irrigated with saline solution at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1. In this study, C. fruticosa and T. acaulis had minimal foliar salt damage and less reduction in shoot dry weight, indicating that they are more tolerant to salinity. Epilobium septentrionale was moderately tolerant to saline solution irrigation with less foliar damage, although it had more reduction in shoot dry weight. On the other hand, A. barnebyi was the least tolerant with severe foliar damage, more reduction in shoot dry weight, and a greater concentration of Na+ and Cl.

Open access

Yuxiang Wang, Liqin Li, Youping Sun and Xin Dai

Spirea (Spiraea sp.) plants are commonly used in landscapes in Utah and the intermountain western United States. The relative salt tolerance of seven japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica) cultivars (Galen, Minspi, NCSX1, NCSX2, SMNSJMFP, Tracy, and Yan) were evaluated in a greenhouse. Plants were irrigated with a nutrient solution with an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solutions with an EC of 3.0 or 6.0 dS·m−1 once per week for 8 weeks. At 8 weeks after the initiation of treatment, all japanese spirea cultivars irrigated with saline solution with an EC of 3.0 dS·m−1 still exhibited good or excellent visual quality, with all plants having visual scores of 4 or 5 (0 = dead, 1 = severe foliar salt damage, 2 = moderate foliar salt damage, 3 = slight foliar salt damage, 4 = minimal foliar salt damage, 5 = excellent), except for Tracy and Yan, with only 29% and 64%, respectively, of plants with visual scores less than 3. When irrigated with saline solution with an EC of 6.0 dS·m−1, both ‘Tracy’ and ‘Yan’ plants died, and 75% of ‘NCSX2’ plants died. ‘Minspi’ showed severe foliar salt damage, with 32% of plants having a visual score of 1; 25% of plants died. ‘Galen’ and ‘NCSX1’ had slight-to-moderate foliar salt damage, with 25% and 21%, respectively, of plants with visual scores of 2 or less. However, 64% of ‘SMNSJMFP’ plants had good or excellent visual quality, with visual scores more than 4. Saline irrigation water with an EC of 3.0 dS·m−1 decreased the shoot dry weight of ‘Galen’, ‘Minspi’, ‘SMNSJMFP’, and ‘Yan’ by 27%, 22%, 28%, and 35%, respectively, compared with that of the control. All japanese spirea cultivars had 35% to 56% lower shoot dry weight than the control when they were irrigated with saline irrigation water with an EC of 6.0 dS·m−1. The japanese spirea were moderately sensitive to the salinity levels in this experiment. ‘Galen’ and ‘SMNSJMFP’ japanese spirea exhibited less foliar salt damage and reductions in shoot dry weight and were relatively more tolerant to the increased salinity levels tested in this study than the remaining five cultivars (Minspi, NCSX1, NCSX2, Tracy, and Yan).

Open access

Ji Jhong Chen, Yuxiang Wang, Asmita Paudel and Youping Sun

Screening salinity-tolerant plants is usually time intensive and only applicable to a limited number of salinity levels. A near-continuous gradient dosing (NCGD) system allows researchers to evaluate a large number of plants for salinity tolerance with multiple treatments, more flexibility, and reduced efforts of irrigation. Rose of sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), and japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica) were irrigated using an NCGD system with eight electrical conductivity (EC) levels ranging from 0.9 to 6.5 dS·m–1. At 11 weeks after irrigation was initiated, there were no significant differences among EC levels in terms of visual score, growth index [(Height + Width 1 + Width 2)/3], stem diameter, number of inflorescences, and shoot dry weight (DW) of rose of sharon. However, the root DW, relative chlorophyll content (SPAD), and net photosynthesis rate (Pn) of rose of sharon decreased linearly as EC levels increased. Ninebark and japanese spirea had increased foliar salt damage with increasing EC levels. The growth index, stem diameter, number of inflorescences, shoot and root DW, SPAD, and Pn of ninebark decreased linearly as EC levels increased. The growth index and SPAD of japanese spirea decreased quadratically with increasing EC levels, but its stem diameter, number of inflorescences, shoot and root DW, and Pn decreased linearly with increasing EC levels. The salinity threshold (50% loss of shoot DW) was 5.4 and 4.6 dS·m–1, respectively, for ninebark and japanese spirea. We were not able to define the salinity threshold for rose of sharon in this study. However, rose of sharon was the most salinity-tolerant species among the three landscape plants.