Production of vegetable crops can be limited by saline irrigation water. The variability of crop salt tolerance under different environmental conditions requires species-specific and environment-specific field evaluations of salt tolerance. Data on field performances of vegetable crops grown on soils that have been irrigated with saline water for many years are lacking. In this study we analyzed the long-term effect of irrigation with saline water on soil properties and on responses of field-grown pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) plants in these soils. Yield, gas exchanges, water relations, and solute accumulation were measured in plants grown under three different irrigation treatments: a nonsalinized control (ECw= 0.5 dS·m-1) and two concentrations of commercial sea salt, corresponding to ECw of 4.4 and 8.5 dS·m-1, respectively. In addition, a nonwatered drought stress treatment was included. Irrigation water with an EC of 4.4 dS·m-1 resulted in 46% reduction in plant dry weight (leaves plus stem) and 25% reduction in marketable yield. Increasing the electrical conductivity of the irrigation water to 8.5 dS·m-1 caused a 34% reduction in plant dry weight and a 58% reduction in marketable yield. Leaf and root cellular turgor and net CO2 assimilation rates of leaves in salt-stressed plants decreased along with a reduction in leaf area and dry matter accumulation. High concentrations of Na+ and Cl- in the irrigation water did not significantly alter the level of K+ in leaves and fruit. In contrast, drought Stressed plants had higher concentrations of leaf K+ compared to well watered control plants. These results indicate that Na+ and K+ may play similar roles in maintaining cellular turgor under salinity and drought stress, respectively. The regulation of ion loading to the shoots was most likely functionally associated with physiological modifications of the root/shoot ratio that was substantially smaller in salinized vs. drought stressed plants. From an agronomic perspective, irrigation with moderately saline water (4.4 dS·m-1) it is recommendable, compared to no irrigation, to obtain an acceptable marketable yield in the specific environment considered.
|Pages (from-to)||48 - 54|
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2003|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes