Priming improves germination and seed reserve utilization, growth, antioxidant responses and membrane stability at early seedling stage of Saudi sorghum varieties under drought stress
Seeds of three sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench.) varieties from Southwest Saudi Arabia were used to investigate the potential of osmopriming with polyethylene glycol (PEG 8000) to improve germination performance, seed reserve utilization and early seedling growth and drought stress tolerance. The primed (PS) and unprimed (UPS) seeds of the three sorghum varieties were germinated for 8 days under increasing PEG-induced osmotic stress. The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design, in a factorial arrangement, with three sorghum cultivars (‘Zaydia’, ‘Shahbi’ and ‘Ahmar’) and four osmotic potentials (0.0; -0.4; -0.8 and -1.2 MPa) with four replicates of 50 seeds each. The results showed that drought stress affected seed germination and seedling emergence and establishment, but increased the activity of the antioxidant enzyme catalase (CAT). The strongest inhibition of germination and growth occurred at the highest PEG concentration and a significant difference was noticeable between the studied varieties. We confirmed also that seed osmopriming improved seed germination performance, seedling growth and enhanced the CAT activities while reduced malonyldialdehyde (MDA) accumulation and electrolyte leakage (EL) in the drought-stressed seedlings. Seed priming have enhanced also the α-amylase and total proteases activities in all varieties. The largest increase of these hydrolysing enzymes was shown in ‘Ahmar’. Furthermore, the PEG priming lead to improvement of the weight of utilized (mobilized) seed reserve (WUSR), seed reserve depletion percentage (SRDP) and total seedling dry weight (SLDW) of sorghum seedlings under water stress conditions. Still, the highest values or all three parameters were found in the ‘Ahmar’ variety. Under increasing drought stress conditions, ‘Ahmar’ showed the highest yield stability index (YSI) and the least EL and MDA contents in comparison to the other two varieties during the seedling establishment stage. Therefore, the former variety can tolerate better a rigorous water stress condition. ‘Zaydia’ appears to be the most vulnerable to drought stress. Thus, the use of species or varieties with eminent seed metabolic quality is an advantageous trait in drought-prone regions.
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