1 Section for Crop Sciences, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Københavns Universitet2 Mediterranea University3 Department of Agriculture & Ecology, Crop Science, Department of Agriculture & Ecology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Section for Crop Sciences, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Københavns Universitet5 Department of Agriculture & Ecology, Crop Science, Department of Agriculture & Ecology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Salinization is increasing on a global scale, decreasing average yields for most major crop plants. Inves- tigations into salt resistance have, unfortunately, mainly been focused on conventional crops, with few studies screen- ing the potential of available halophytes as new crops. This study has been carried out to investigate the mechanisms used by quinoa, a facultative halophytic species, in order to cope with high salt levels at various stages of its develop- ment. Quinoa is regarded as one of the crops that might sustain food security in this century, grown primarily for its edible seeds with their high protein content and unique amino acid composition. Although the species has been described as a facultative halophyte, and its tolerance to salt stress has been investigated, its physiological and molecular responses to seawater (SW) and other salts have not been studied. We evaluated the effects of SW and different salts on seed germination, seedling emergence and the antioxidative pathway of quinoa. Seeds were germi- nated in Petri dishes and seedlings grown in pots with SW solutions (25, 50, 75 and 100 %) and NaCl, CaCl2, KCl and MgCl2 individually, at the concentrations in which they are present in SW. Our results demonstrated that all salts, at lower concentrations, increased the germination rate but not the germination percentages, compared with control (pure water). Conversely, seedlings were differently affected by treatments in respect to salt type and concentration. Growth parameters affected were root and shoot length, root morphology, fresh and dry weight, and water content. An efficient antioxidant mechanism was present in quinoa, activated by salts during germination and early seedling growth, as shown by the activities of antioxidant enzymes. Total antioxidant capacity was always higher under salt stress than in water. Moreover, osmotic and ionic stress factors had different degrees of influence on germination and development.