PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF DWARF COCONUT PLANTS UNDER WATER DEFICIT IN SALT-AFFECTED SOILS
ABSTRACT The objective of this study was to characterize the physiological acclimation responses of young plants of the dwarf coconut cultivar Jiqui Green‘ associated with tolerance to conditions of multiple abiotic stresses (drought and soil salinity), acting either independently or in combination. The study was conducted under controlled conditions and evaluated the following parameters: leaf gas exchange, quantum yield of chlorophyll a fluorescence, and relative contents of total chlorophyll (SPAD index). The experiment was conducted under a randomized block experimental design, in a split plot arrangement. In the plots, plants were exposed to different levels of water stress, by imposing potential crop evapotranspiration replacement levels equivalent to 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20%, whereas in subplots, plants were exposed to different levels of soil salinity (1.72, 6.25, 25.80, and 40.70 dS m-1). Physiological mechanisms were effectively limited when water deficit and salinity acted separately and/or together. Compared with soil salinity, water stress was more effective in reducing the measured physiological parameters. The magnitudes of the responses of plants to water supply and salinity depended on the intensity of stress and evaluation period. The physiological acclimation responses of plants were mainly related to stomatal regulation. The coconut tree has a number of physiological adjustment mechanisms that give the species partial tolerance to drought stress and/or salt, thereby enabling it to revegetate salinated areas, provided that its water requirements are at least partially met.