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Effect of water stress and arbuscular mycorrhiza on the plant growth and antioxidant potential of Pelargonium reniforme Curtis and Pelargonium sidoides DC
Pelargoniums have been studied extensively for their medicinal properties. P. reniforme and P. sidoides in particular are proven to possess antimicrobial, antifungal and antibiotic abilities due to their high antioxidant potential from compounds isolated from their tuberous roots. These plants have now been added to the medicine trade market and this is now causing concern for conservationists and they are generally harvested from the wild populations. This study evaluated the effect of water stress alone and in conjunction with arbuscular mycorrhiza on two species of Pelargoniums grown in a soilless medium. The experiment consisted of five different watering regimes which were applied to one hundred plants of each species without inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhiza and to one hundred plants of each species in conjunction with inoculation with AM. All the plants in the experiment were fed with a half-strength, standard Hoagland nutrient solution at varying rates viz. once daily to pot capacity, every three days to pot capacity, every six days to pot capacity, every twelve days to pot capacity and every twenty-four days to pot capacity. The objectives of the study were to measure the nutrient uptake, SPAD-502 levels (chlorophyll production) and metabolite (phenolics) formation of both species, grown under various rates of irrigation and water stress, as well with or without the addition of arbuscular mycorrhiza at planting out. Each treatment consisted of 10 replicates. SPAD-502 levels were measured weekly using a hand held SPAD-502 meter. Determination of nutrient uptake of macronutrients N, K, P, Ca, Mg and Na and micronutrients Cu, Zn, Mn, Al and B were measured from dry plant material at the end of the experiment by Bemlab, 16 Van Der Berg Crescent, Gants Centre, Strand. Plant growth in terms of wet and dry shoot and root weight were measured after harvest. Determination of concentrations of secondary metabolites (phenolic compounds) were assayed and measured spectrophotometrically at the end of the experiment. The highest significant reading of wet shoot weight for P. reniforme was taken in treatments 1 and 2 with and without mycorrhiza i.e. WF1, WF1M, WF2 and WF2M, with the highest mean found in WF1 with no mycorrhiza. This indicates that under high irrigation AM plays no part in plant growth, possibly due to leaching. More research is necessary in this regard. With regard to wet root weight, this was found to be not significant in any of the treatments, other than the longest roots being found in WF4. Measurements for dry root weight showed that WF1,2,3 and 5 were the most significant at P≤ 0.001 significance, with the highest weight found at treatment being WF3 and WF3M. The highest mean of shoot length of the plants was measured in treatment WF2 at moderate watering, but no statistical difference was found with water application and mycorrhiza addition. Nutrient uptake was increased in P. sidoides in all the different watering levels in the experiment except in the uptake of Mg. AM inoculation showed an increase in the uptake of Ca, while absorption of N occurred at higher water availability. K uptake was enhanced by the addition of AM in high water availability and K utilisation decreased as water stress increased. Medium to low watering resulted in higher leaf content in P. sidoides while the interaction between water availability and AM inoculation increased chlorophyll production towards the end of the experiment.
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