Pot trials at Aarhus University

28 June 2021 - Published by Laila Dam
Understanding the physiological and sensory responses of Salicornia, Ice plant and Rocket to salinity and nitrogen stresses.

Salinity affects an extensive area of cultivated lands. For instance, climate change causes saltwater to intrude in farmlands. Salt tolerant plants or halophytes can thrive in saline lands, which make them good models to study plants salt adaptation and tolerance mechanisms.

Until now, there is a lack of studies on the effects of the agronomic conditions such as the salt stress and the availability of plant nutrients on the growth of these species. Plus, little is known about the interaction between salt and nitrogen stresses in the sensory properties when these species are grown for food production. For instance, low nitrogen fertilization has been shown to increase the sweetness in cabbages while some leaf plants grown under salinity conditions tasted less bitter.

In Aarhus University's (AU) experiments, the aim is to clarify the mechanism response of halophytes at different levels of salt stress and nitrogen availability by comparing it with a non-salt tolerant species. Further, they intend to investigate the effect of salt stress and nitrogen availability on sensory properties of different edible parts and to develop the sensory profile for each of the species.

"We hope to provide alternatives for plants that can grow on organic saline soils and reduce freshwater consumption reclaiming the salt affected lands. In addition, we will provide leading-edge knowledge on the physiological and molecular mechanisms that halophytes employ to overcome salt. Further, we hope to clarify which genes in association with non-coding RNAs are most promising for salt tolerance improvement and that are behind the regulation of physiological responses to salt stress. Finally, we hope to lay the foundation for further applications of halophytes in marginal lands and improve plant tolerance in breeding practices", says Thayna Mendanha, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Food Science, AU FOOD.

The plants will be grown under controlled condition at one of the greenhouse compartments of the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University, Denmark. The pots will be irrigated individually and 12 treatments with different salt levels and nitrogen fertilization will be establish. The fresh material will also be evaluated with a sensory descriptive analysis using a trained sensory panel of 16 assessors to develop the sensory profile for each species under the different treatments.