Soil salinity is considered one of the most severe abiotic stresses in plants; plant acclimation to salinity could be a tool to improve salt tolerance even in a sensitive genotype. In this work we investigated the physiological mechanisms underneath the response to gradual and prolonged exposure to sodium chloride in cultivars of Brassica napus
L. Fifteen days old seedlings of the cultivars Dynastie (salt tolerant) and SY Saveo (salt sensitive) were progressively exposed to increasing soil salinity conditions for 60 days. Salt exposed plants of both cultivars showed reductions of biomass, size and number of leaves. However, after 60 days the relative reduction in biomass was lower in sensitive cultivar as compared to tolerant ones. An increase of chlorophylls content was detected in both cultivars; the values of the quantum efficiency of PSII photochemistry (ΦPSII) and those of the electron transport rate (ETR) indicated that the photochemical activity was only partially reduced by NaCl treatments in both cultivars. Ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activity was higher in treated samples with respect to the controls, indicating its activation following salt exposure, and confirming its involvement in salt stress response. A gradual exposure to salt could elicit different salt stress responses, thus preserving plant vitality and conferring a certain degree of tolerance, even though the genotype was salt sensitive at the seed germination stage. An improvement of salt tolerance in B. napus
could be obtained by acclimation to saline conditions.
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