Growth, water consumption and mineral composition of watercress under hydroponic system with brackish water

ABSTRACT The underground water reserves in the semi-arid region present high salinity levels. However, the scarcity of the resource compels the use of this water for several human activities, including agriculture. The aim of this work was to evaluate the use of brackish water for watercress cultivation (Nasturtium officinale) in a hydroponic NFT system (laminar flow of nutrients) and effects on water consumption, growth, yield and nutrient extraction by the plant. We studied six levels of salinity (0.2; 1.2; 2.2; 3.2; 4.2 and 5.2 dS m-1), in a completely randomized experimental design, with four replicates. Salinity was obtained by the addition of NaCl into the local water supply, being these waters used to prepare the nutrient solution and to replace the evapotranspirated water volume. We noticed a reduction in leaf area, fresh and dry mass of shoot, K content in plant and water consumption of the crop and, increased contents of P, Na, Cl in the plants, with increasing salinity of the solution. The use of brackish water for watercress cultivation in hydroponics is possible as an alternative for producers who have availability of brackish water and restricted possibility of fresh water. A reduction in dry mass of plants was observed with increasing electrical conductivity.