Influence of SO2 fumigation on growth, photosynthesis, lipoxygenase and peroxidase activities of soybean (Glycine max), in open–top chambers
Air pollutant exposure poses a health risk to humans and impacts negatively on agriculture. High levels of air pollution resulted in extensive crop damage and yield reduction in Europe and USA. The Highveld region in South Africa, a very important area for maize and soya production, has already been declared an air pollution hot spot, with SO2 being the most concerning air pollutant. Most of the SO2 over the Highveld originates from the burning of coal for power generation. Developing countries, such as South Africa, are highly dependent on agriculture for food security and high levels of air pollution pose serious risks to the agricultural industry. Currently very little information is available on the effects of air pollution on crop production in South Africa. This study aimed to establish exposure-response relationship for SO2 on soybean and the quantification thereof on the morphological, physiological and biochemical characteristics. Two soybean cultivars were used, namely: LS 6164 and PAN 1666. The plants were fumigated for 7 hours, 7 days a week with 0 (carbon filtered control; CF), 25, 75 and 150 ppb SO2. The effect of SO2 was investigated on the growth, photosynthetic capabilities, photosynthetic gas exchange, peroxidase activity and lipoxygenase activity of the cultivars. Foliar injuries and interveinal chlorosis were visible with increasing levels of SO2 as well as a decrease in biomass accumulation, especially in root biomass; a more prominent feature of LS 6164. The number of nodules of both cultivars decreased insignificantly as the levels of SO2 increased. The number of pods per plant and the average weight of 30 seeds indicated a downward trend with an increase in SO2 concentration. The chlorophyll content of PAN 1666 was lower compared to LS 6164. PAN 1666 had the largest reduction in stomatal conductance at 150 ppb SO2 fumigation. The photosynthetic vitality index indicated that LS 6164 was more sensitive to SO2 inhibition from 25 ppb SO2 and higher, whereas PAN 1666 mostly became sensitive to SO2 from 75 ppb SO2. A decrease in the ability to absorb light energy, the trapping of excitation energy to transfer electrons beyond QA-, and the reduction of end electron acceptors all contributed to the decline in the vitality index. Sulphur content increased significantly in the 75 ppb and 150 ppb treatments of both cultivars. Induced peroxidase and lipoxygenase activity was seen in both cultivars, especially at higher concentrations of SO2 treatments. PAN 1666 had a higher rate of peroxidase and lipoxygenase activity compared to LS 6164. The implication for SO2 on crop production in the highly industrial Highveld area was demonstrated to be potentially of great concern. The dose-response relationships plotted for OJIP parameters emphasized that SO2 is an inhibitor of photosynthesis and phytotoxic of nature. Both cultivars experienced limitations from 75 ppb, especially at the 150 ppb SO2 concentration. From these results it appears that PAN 1666 is more adapted to SO2 compared to LS 6164 and levels of 75 ppb SO2 and higher become toxic to these plants.