Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Committee Chair(s)

Paul G Johnson


Paul G Johnson


Shaun Bushman


Joseph Robins


Salinity is a major abiotic stress in plant agriculture which reduces seed germination, vegetative growth, and flowering, and limits crop productivity world-wide. Salinity causes water deficit, ion toxicity, and nutrient deficiency in plants, which can result in cellular damage, growth reduction, and even death. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) is the most widely used cool-season species in cool-arid climates; however it has relatively poor salt-tolerance. Thus the development of Kentucky bluegrass genotypes with increased salt tolerance is of interest to turf breeders. One impediment to selection towards this goal is finding an efficient and accurate method to evaluate the salt tolerance. The objective of this study was to examine physiological responses to salt stress and to evaluate the genetic diversity among the accessions used in the research. Salt-tolerant accessions PI371768 (768) and PI440603 (603) and salt-sensitive varieties Midnight and Baron were exposed to four levels of salinity imposed by irrigating with salt solutions of 0 dS m-1 (control), 6 dS m-1, 12 dS m-1, and 18 dS m-1 or 24 dS m-1. Soil salinity was measured using Acclima Digital TDT sensors and grass response to the stress was measured using turf quality ratings, stomatal conductance, leaf water potential and electrolyte leakage. In general, turfgrass quality, stomatal conductance, and leaf water potential decreased while electrolyte leakage increased under salinity stress. Midnight and Baron exhibited greater changes in these measurements, indicating more sensitivity compared to 768 and 603. The 6 dS m-1 treatment had little effect on the salt-tolerant accessions. Salt tolerance of 603 and 768 was confirmed and likewise, salt sensitivity of Baron and Midnight was confirmed. The genetic similarity of all cultivars used in this study was very high.

All of the evaluation measurements were highly correlated, with water potential and electrolyte leakage being the most reliable and accurate methods due to the low standard deviations. Due to more repeatable methods and less user error, electrolyte leakage and turfgrass quality are recommended methods for screening salt tolerance of turfgrasses.