Start Date: Dec 23, 2011
End Date: Dec 22, 2016
Objective 1: We will conduct experiments on seed germination as related to water composition and salinity. We will evaluate germination rate of 20 alfalfa cultivars or populations, in the greenhouse, and then determine growth parameters and yield of 7 of these populations in the sandtank facility, four with expected salt tolerance and three regarded as more sensitive. Five salinity treatments of each water type (chloride and mixed anion) will be imposed. Data to be collected include seedling emergence, survival, yield, mineral analyses, and analysis of compatible solutes, carbohydrates, nitrogenous compounds and antioxidants and ion selectivity coefficients for plant uptake. We will identify and quantify physiological and biochemical traits in strawberry related to salt stress or ion toxicity. We will evaluate commercial varieties of unknown salt tolerance under both sulfate and chloride dominated waters of varying salinity. We will also obtain other Fragaria species as appropriate, and conduct comparable experiments. In addition to yield parameters, ion analyses of major and minor elements, we will also measure soluble carbohydrates, nitrogenous osmolytes and antioxidants. Objective 2: In the greenhouse, seedling shoots of the model plant M. truncatula will be grown, salinity treatments imposed, plant material harvested and gene expression evaluated for selected salinity related genes identified by others. We will utilize quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). We will also study gene expression levels in the model plant species Fragaria vesca. After initial identification of relevant genes related to salt stress in alfalfa, we will design a PCR primer array to facilitate salt tolerance screening of cultivars. Similar experiments will be conducted with the model species. As a second approach to identify genes involved in salt tolerance; we will use RNAseq method to get a comprehensive view of the whole transcriptome from normal and salt-stressed model plants. Subsequent RNAseq experiments will be conducted for selected cultivars of alfalfa and strawberry. Knowledge gained from qPCR and RNAseq analysis will be utilized to design qPCR arrays and to screen for salt tolerance. After selection of appropriate genes we will also examine the genetic material from varieties evaluated in Objective 1, based on information generated from the model plant studies and also evaluate usefulness of qPCR arrays for routine screening. Fragaria species, the diploid model system F. vesca, accessions of F. x ananassa, and strawberry cultivars will be grown with irrigation water compositions typical of degraded waters. Plant tissues will be analyzed for mineral ion analysis and secondary metabolite concentrations. Using two separate approaches (qPCR method to evaluate gene expression data and RNAseq technology to visualize transcriptome data) will aid in positive identification of genes putatively involved in salt tolerance. After identifying promising candidate genes, we will study expression of these genes in known salt tolerant cultivars of Medicago and Fragaria.