Date palms are widely cultivated in arid Mediterranean regions and require large quantities of water to produce commercial fruit yields. In these regions the plantations are commonly irrigated with low-quality water, which results in reduced growth and yields. To study the effect of using saline water for irrigation, date palm seedlings (cv. Medjool) were subjected to long-term irrigation treatments with water containing between 2 and 105mM NaCl. The effect of saline irrigation was determined according to leaf gas exchange, chlorophyll a fluorescence, growth parameters and the distribution of key minerals in different plant organs. High salinity decreased plant growth and increased Na+ accumulation in the roots and lower stem. However, Na+ ions were mostly excluded from the sensitive photosynthetic tissues of the leaf. Thus, the reduction in the CO2 assimilation rate was primarily attributed to a reduced stomatal conductance. Consistent with this finding, the photosynthetic response to variable intercellular CO2 concentrations (A/Ci curves) revealed no permanent damage to the photosynthetic apparatus and implicated developed photoprotective mechanisms. Independent of salinity treatment, 80% of the energy absorbed by the leaf was directed to non-photochemical quenching, as presented in electron-equivalent units. Functioning at full capacity, the non-photochemical mechanism could not compensate for all the excess irradiance. Thus, of the remaining absorbed energy, a significant portion was directed to photochemical O2 related processes, rather than CO2 prevented photoinhibition. The exclusion of toxic ions and O2-dependent energy dissipation maintained photosynthetic efficiency and supported survival under salt stress.
- Solar irradiance