Effects of Two Doses of Organic Extract-Based Biostimulant on Greenhouse Lettuce Grown Under Increasing NaCl Concentrations.Front Plant Sci 2018; 9:1870FP
The enhancement of plant tolerance toward abiotic stresses is increasingly being supported by the application of biostimulants. Salinity represents a serious problem in the Mediterranean region. To verify the effects deriving from the application of biostimulants, trials on Romaine lettuce plants under salt exposure were performed, in greenhouse. Plants were subjected to three NaCl solutions with 0.8, 1.3, and 1.8 dS/m of electrical conductivity. The volume of the solution was 200 mL/plant and delivered every 3 days. Biostimulant treatments started after crop establishment and were: control (water) and two doses (0.1 or 0.2 mL/plant) of the commercial biostimulant Retrosal® (Valagro S.p.A), containing calcium, zinc, and specific active ingredients. Four Retrosal® treatments were applied, every 7 days, directly to the substrate. Non-destructive analyses were conducted to assess the effects on leaf photosynthetic efficiency. At harvest, plants fresh weight (FW) and dry weight were determined, as well as the concentration of chlorophylls, carotenoids, total sugars, nitrate, proline, and abscisic acid (ABA). The biostimulant tested increased significantly the FW of lettuce (+65% in the highest dose) compared to controls. Results indicate that treatments positively affected the chlorophyll content measured in vivo (+45% in the highest dose) and that a general positive effect was observable on net photosynthesis rate. Retrosal® seems to improve the gas exchanges under our experimental conditions. The total sugars levels were not affected by treatments. Biostimulant allowed maintaining nitrate concentration similar to the untreated and unstressed controls. The increasing levels of water salinity caused a raise in proline concentration in control plants (+85%); biostimulant treatments at 0.2 mL/plant dose kept lower the proline levels. All plants treated with the biostimulant showed lower value of ABA (-34%) compared to controls. Results revealed that Retrosal® is able to stimulate plant growth independently from the salinity exposure. However, treated plants reached faster the commercial maturity stage. The fresh biomass of control at the end of experiment, after 30 days, ranged from 15 to 42 g/head, while in biostimulant treated plants ranged from 45 to 94 g/head. The product applied at maximum dose seems to be the most effective in our experimental conditions.