Agronomical, physiological and molecular evaluation reveals superior salt-tolerance in bread wheat through salt-induced priming approach
Salt stress significantly limit wheat crop productivity worldwide. Exposure to non-lethal levels of salt stress, referred to as "salt-priming", allows plants to persist subsequent lethal conditions; the priming effect continues even after an extended salt stress-free period. This study attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of the salt-induced priming approach to cope with the toxic effects of long-term salinity stress in wheat. After 22 days of gradual salt acclamation to reach 250 mM NaCl, plants were recovered for eight days and finally shocked with 250 mM NaCl (priming+shock) for 7 days. After that, physiological parameters and gene expression of six salt-responsive genes were assessed. Additionally, 120 days after germination (at the end of the season), agronomic traits were recorded. Analysis of the agronomical traits revealed higher productivity in the salt-pretreated group (priming+shock) plants than the non-pretreated (shock only). Consistently, salt-pretreated plants maintained higher photosynthetic pigments level and decreased proline and MDA content than non-pretreated, suggesting enhanced salt tolerance. Moreover, salt-pretreated plants sustained high expressional levels of salt-responsive genes (TaNHX1, TaSOS1, TaSOS4, TaHKT1, TaHKT2, and TaAKT1) comparing with non-pretreated, indicating a vital role in ion homeostasis and conferring salt tolerance. Ultimately, this finding could facilitate novel smart approaches to improve wheat productivity under salt stress.
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