Screening of giant reed (<i>Arundo donax</i> L.) ecotypes for biomass production under salt stress

<p>Given its high biomass and plasticity, <i>Arundo donax</i> L. is a promising ligno-cellulosic crop for cultivation in marginal lands in temperate climates. In order to test for adaptation to salinity, growth parameters of several <i>A. donax</i> clones were evaluated under two salt regimes in hydroponics. Mild NaCl stress (50 mM NaCl, 5.6 mS cm<sup>−1</sup> EC, for 10 days) failed to discriminate between ecotypes, while a more severe NaCl treatment (150 mM, 18.8 mS cm<sup>−1</sup> EC, for 21 days) enabled the identification of ecotypes maintaining plant growth under high salinity. Among several biometric parameters, 4th leaf width, and shoot and root DW consistently highlighted differences between ecotypes. Gas-exchange parameters also responded to severe NaCl treatment, while the photosystem efficiency was good, regardless of treatment. The results confirm that <i>A. donax</i> can be considered moderately tolerant to NaCl stress, with variation between ecotypes. Our screening protocol identified ecotypes with higher biomass production under severe NaCl treatment and can be useful for preliminary evaluation of NaCl tolerant clones for increasing productivity under salinity. The detected inter-ecotype variability could also be investigated to identify suitable clones for different environments.</p>