Salinity is a major abiotic stress negatively affecting plant growth and consequently crop production. The effects of short-term salt stress were evaluated on seedlings of three globally important Brassica crops—Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa
), white cabbage (Brassica oleracea
), and kale (Brassica oleracea
)—with particular focus on phenolic acids. The physiological and biochemical stress parameters in the seedlings and the levels of three main groups of metabolites (total glucosinolates, carotenoids, and phenolics) and individual phenolic acids were determined. The salt treatments caused a dose-dependent reduction in root growth and biomass and an increase in stress parameters (Na+
ratio, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and glutathione (GSH)) in all seedlings but most prominently in Chinese cabbage. Based on PCA, specific metabolites grouped close to the more tolerant species, white cabbage and kale. The highest levels of phenolic acids, particularly hydroxycinnamic acids, were determined in the more tolerant kale and white cabbage. A reduction in caffeic, salicylic, and 4-coumaric acid was found in Chinese cabbage and kale, and an increase in ferulic acid levels was found in kale upon salinity treatments. Phenolic acids are species-specific among Brassicaceae, and some may participate in stress tolerance. Salt-tolerant varieties have higher levels of some phenolic acids and suffer less from metabolic stress disorders under salinity stress.
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