Silicon application can improve productivity outcomes for salt stressed plants. Here, we describe how strawberry plants respond to treatments including various combinations of salt stress and nano-silicon dioxide, and assess whether nano-silicon dioxide improves strawberry plant tolerance to salt stress. Strawberry plants were treated with salt (0, 25 or 50 mM NaCl), and the nano-silicon dioxide treatments were applied to the strawberry plants before (0, 50 and 100 mg L−1
) or after (0 and 50 mg L−1
) flowering. The salt stress treatments reduced plant biomass, chlorophyll content, and leaf relative water content (RWC) as expected. Relative to control (no NaCl) plants the salt treated plants had 10% lower membrane stability index (MSI), 81% greater proline content, and 54% greater cuticular transpiration; as well as increased canopy temperature and changes in the structure of the epicuticular wax layer. The plants treated with nano-silicon dioxide were better able to maintain epicuticular wax structure, chlorophyll content, and carotenoid content and accumulated less proline relative to plants treated only with salt and no nano-silicon dioxide. Analysis of scanning electron microscopic (SEM) images revealed that the salt treatments resulted in changes in epicuticular wax type and thickness, and that the application of nano-silicon dioxide suppressed the adverse effects of salinity on the epicuticular wax layer. Nano-silicon dioxide treated salt stressed plants had increased irregular (smoother) crystal wax deposits in their epicuticular layer. Together these observations indicate that application of nano-silicon dioxide can limit the adverse anatomical and biochemical changes related to salt stress impacts on strawberry plants and that this is, in part, associated with epicuticular wax deposition.
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