Two contrasting barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cultivars: Kepin No.7 (salt sensitive), and Jian 4 (salt tolerant) were grown in a hydroponics system containing 120 mol m-3 NaCl only and 120 mol m-3 NaCl with 1.0 mol m-3 Si (as potassium silicate). Compared with the plants treated with salt alone, superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in plant leaves and H+-ATPase activity in plant roots increased, and malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration in plant leaves decreased significantly for both cultivars when treated with salt and Si. The addition of Si was also found to reduce sodium but increase potassium concentrations in shoots and roots of salt-stressed barley. Sodium uptake and transport into shoots from roots was greatly inhibited by added Si under salt stress conditions. However, Si addition exhibited little effect on calcium concentrations in shoots of salt-stressed barley. Thus, Si-enhanced salt tolerance is attributed to selective uptake and transport of potassium and sodium by plants. The results of the present study suggest that Si is involved in the metabolic or physiological changes in plants.
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