UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The Response of Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) Plants to Three Abiotic Stresses Applied with Increasing Intensity: Hypoxia, Salinity, and Water Deficit Jayawardhane, Jayamini; Goyali, Juran C.; Zafari, Somaieh; Igamberdiev, Abir U.


Exposing plants to gradually increasing stress and to abiotic shock represents two different phenomena. The knowledge on plants’ responses following gradually increasing stress is limited, as many of the studies are focused on abiotic shock responses. We aimed to investigate how cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.) plants respond to three common agricultural abiotic stresses: hypoxia (applied with the increasing time of exposure to nitrogen gas), salinity (gradually increasing NaCl concentration), and water deficit (gradual decrease in water supply). We hypothesized that the cowpea plants would increase in tolerance to these three abiotic stresses when their intensities rose in a stepwise manner. Following two weeks of treatments, leaf and whole-plant fresh weights declined, soluble sugar levels in leaves decreased, and lipid peroxidation of leaves and roots and the levels of leaf electrolyte leakage increased. Polyphenol oxidase activity in both roots and leaves exhibited a marked increase as compared to catalase and peroxidase. Leaf flavonoid content decreased considerably after hypoxia, while it increased under water deficit treatment. NO emission rates after 3 h in the hypoxically treated plants were similar to the controls, while the other two treatments resulted in lower values of NO production, and these levels further decreased with time. The degree of these changes was dependent on the type of treatment, and the observed effects were more substantial in leaves than in roots. In summary, the responses of cowpea plants to abiotic stress depend on the type and the degree of stress applied and the plant organs.

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