Effect of PEG-induced drought stress on germination of ten chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) genotypes
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is one of the most important legume crops worldwide, with its importance mainly relying on its high protein content. Chickpea productivity is strictly threatened by abiotic stresses, of which drought exerts the most crucial role in terms of growth inhibition and yield losses encountered. Given that germination is a critical stage that is negatively affected by drought, the aim of this study was to estimate the genotypic variability among ten chickpea genotypes and to determine the seed germination and seedling growth ability under drought stress conditions. Seeds were subjected to water stress by polyethylene glycol (PEG-6000) at five stress levels (0, 5, 10, 20, 30 and 50% PEG). Germination percentage, seed water content, seed water absorbance, root and shoot development and seedling vigour index were evaluated. The analyses revealed significant genetic variability in relation to genotypic performance under drought stress. Drought significantly affected germination as well as all other associated traits, with the effects of stress being analogous to the stress level applied. Findings point to the fact that seedling vigour index is a suitable selection criterion for drought tolerance as it allowed the classification of genotypes as tolerant, moderately tolerant, moderately susceptible and susceptible. Taken together, the commercial varieties ‘Thiva’, ‘Keryneia’ and ‘Gavdos’ as well as the landrace ‘Lemnos’ showed an increased drought tolerance at high stress level, indicating their possible exploitation as valuable genetic material for breeding programs or for commercial use.
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