Author

Joseph Sagers

Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Plants, Soils, and Climate

Advisor/Chair:

J. Earl Creech

Abstract

Halogeton (Halogeton glomeratus) is a halophytic, invasive species that displaces Gardner’s saltbush (Atriplex gardneri) on saline rangelands. Forage kochia (Bassia prostrata) is a potential species to rehabilitate these ecosystems. This study compared the salinity tolerance of these species and tall wheatgrass (Thinopyrum ponticum) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Plants were evaluated for 28 days in hydroponics where they were maintained at 0, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, and 800 mM NaCl. Shoot growth and ion accumulation were determined. Alfalfa and tall wheatgrass were severely affected by salt with both species’ shoot mass just 32% of control at 150 mM NaCl. Alfalfa did not survive above 300 mM NaCl, while, tall wheatgrass did not survive at salt levels above 400 mM NaCl. In contrast, forage kochia survived to 600 mM, but produced little shoot mass at that level. Halogeton exhibited ‘halophytic’ shoot growth, reaching maximum mass at 141 mM, and not less mass than the control until salinity reached 400 mM. Gardner’s saltbush did not show a dramatic decrease in dry mass produced until it reached salt levels of 600 and 800 mM NaCl. Forage kochia yielded high amounts of dry mass in the absence of salt, but also managed to survive up to 600 mM NaCl. Salt tolerance ranking (GR50 = 50% reduction in shoot mass) was Gardner’s saltbush=halogeton>forage kochia> alfalfa>tall wheatgrass. Both halogeton and Gardner’s saltbush actively accumulated sodium in shoots, indicating that Na+ was the principle ion in osmotic adjustment. In contrast, forage kochia exhibited a linear increase (e.g. passive uptake) in Na+ accumulation as salinity increased. This study confirmed that halogeton is a halophytic species and thus well adapted to salt-desert shrubland ecosystems. Gardner’s saltbush, also a halophyte, was equally salt tolerant, suggesting other factors are responsible for halogeton displacement of Gardner’s saltbush. Forage kochia is a halophytic species that can survive salinity equal to seawater, but is not as salt tolerant as Gardner’s saltbush and halogeton.

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