Phenotypic indicators of NaCl tolerance levels in rice seedlings: variations in development and leaf anatomy

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The aim of this research is the early identification of distinctive responses to NaCl in rice cultivars that would indicate further stress-related effects in mature plants. For this purpose, we analysed some developmental and anatomical features in control and NaCl-stressed seedlings of two Japonica rice cultivars (Bomba and Bahia). Responses ascribed to osmotic stress were differentiated from those related to the ionic component of salinity by using in parallel a non-penetrating osmoticum (sorbitol). The general patterns of reduction in growth and variations in anatomical features of second leaf sections were similar in both cultivars. The main difference between them was the intensity of the response as a function of the stress agent. In general, the effect of NaCl was significantly stronger than that of sorbitol in cv. Bomba, whereas in cv. Bahia the effects of both stress agents were comparable. In this regard, the size of epidermal and bulliform cells as well as dimensions related to the vascular system, including xylem vessels, increased significantly in NaCl-stressed cv. Bomba leaves. This enlargement of xylem vessels agrees with the observed decrease in the rate of eosin transport and appears to be a distinctive anatomical indicator of NaCl sensitivity. The further impact of salinity on grain yield was proved to be stronger in cv. Bomba plants than in those of cv. Bahia.

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