Foliar application of silicon decreases wheat blast symptoms without impairing photosynthesis

ABSTRACT Considering the importance of blast, caused by Pyricularia oryzae, to impact wheat yield, this study investigated whether the foliar spray of potassium silicate (PS) could affect the photosynthesis of wheat plants and its potential to reduce disease symptoms. The Exp. 1 aimed to determine the effect of the foliar spray of PS on the photosynthetic performance of plants and was arranged in a completely randomized design with six treatments (plants sprayed with PS rates of 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, 10.0, and 12.5 g·L-1 at 35 days after emergence) and six replications. The leaf gas exchange (net CO2 assimilation rate (A), internal CO2 concentration (Ci), stomatal conductance to water vapor (gs), and transpiration rate (E)) as well as fluorescence of chlorophyll a (maximal photosystem II quantum yield (Fv/Fm), quantum yield of non-regulated energy dissipation [Y(NO)], photochemical yield [Y(II)], electron transport rate (ETR), and quenching non-photochemical [Y(NPQ)]) parameters were evaluated. The Exp. 2 was carried out to determine the effect of PS on blast control and also on the photosynthetic performance of plants. Plants at 35 days after emergence were sprayed with PS rate of 12.5 g·L-1, which did not affect photosynthesis on plants from Exp.1. This experiment was a 2 × 4 factorial and arranged in a completely randomized design with six replications. The factors studied were plants non-inoculated or inoculated plants and the spray of water, PS, fungicide (trifloxystrobin 10% + tebuconazole 20%; 0.75 L/ha), and fungicide + PS. There were no significant changes in the values of A, gs, E, Ci, Fv/Fm, Y(NO), Y(II), Y(NPQ), and ETR for plants sprayed three times (every 96 h interval) as the PS rates increased from 2.5 to 12.5 g·L-1. There was no significant relationship between the PS rates with either absorbance, reflectance or transmittance on the leaf blades. Linear regression model best described the foliar Si concentration-PS rates relationship. Foliar Si concentration significantly increased by 44 and 42%, respectively, for the PS and PS + fungicide treatments compared to water-sprayed plants. The area under disease progress curve was significantly lower by 64, 58, and 53%, respectively, for the fungicide, PS, and fungicide + PS treatments in comparison to water-sprayed plants. The photosynthetical process, primarily related to the Fv/Fm parameter, on wheat leaves was greatly impaired during the infection process of P. oryzae, but to a lesser extent on the leaves of PS-sprayed plants. In conclusion, the foliar spray of PS can be an environmentally friendly strategy to control wheat blast without causing perturbation to the photosynthetic machinery of wheat plants.