EFFECTS OF NUTRIENT SOLUTION SALINITY ON THE PHYSIOLOGICAL PERFORMANCE OF MELON CULTIVATED IN COCONUT FIBER

ABSTRACT Brackish waters represent great potential for profitable agricultural production; however, productive usage depends on the adoption of proper cultural practices as well as a culture tolerant of salinity, which can require some restrictions related to soil and crop production. Given the lack of information pertaining to hydroponic melon culture, the objective of this study was to investigate physiological changes promoted by the use of brackish water in the preparation of the nutrient solution for melon (Cucumis melo L., cv. AF 015) growth in coconut fiber substrate under greenhouse conditions in Mossoró-RN, a semiarid region of Brazil. The experimental design was completely randomized, with 12 treatments arranged in a 4 x 3 factorial scheme, with 4 salt concentration levels (1.1 - control, 2.5, 4.0 and 5.5 dS m-1) and 3 exposition times (vegetative growth: 10-30 days after transplanting, DAT; flowering: 31 to 50 DAT; and fruiting and ripening: 51-70 DAT, which are the assessment phases of physiological maturation). Increasing salt concentrations in the nutrient solution reduced photosynthetic efficiency, stomatal conductance and transpiration, but increased the intercellular CO2 concentration in melon plants. A salt concentration in the low to intermediate range (2.5 dS m-1) resulted in the best water use efficiency by melon crops.