Yield responses of a grain amaranth accession to different irrigation strategies were evaluated in Naples, Italy. Field experiments were carried out to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative response of amaranth under combined abiotic stresses (salinity and drought) in a Mediterranean environment of South Italy affected by problems due to groundwater salinization from seawater intrusion.
A comparison was made in 2009 and 2010 between a fully irrigated treatment (1·00), with the restitution of all of the water necessary to replenish to field capacity the soil layer explored by roots (0·00–0·36 m), and two treatments with restitution of 0·50 and 0·25 of the water volume used for the fully irrigated treatment. The three levels of irrigation volume were combined with two levels of salinity, either fresh or salt water, with electrical conductivity (EC) of the irrigation water of 0·64 and 22 dS/m respectively, in a factorial experiment thus harbouring six treatments in a randomized complete block design. The results showed good adaptation of amaranth to drought. It was possible to obtain high yields even if groundwater with infiltrated seawater was used for irrigation (50% yield reduction when the EC of soil saturated paste extract (ECe) was 13·97 dS/m). A reduction of 50% in the volume of irrigation did not cause a significant reduction in yield, whether using fresh or saline water, compared to the treatment fully irrigated with fresh water. The chemical composition of amaranth seeds, however, was significantly affected by the treatments. Starch and ash content decreased with increasing drought while protein content was increased by both salt and drought.
In view of the increased presence of salinity and drought stress in the Mediterranean area and the scarce information on amaranth response to salt and water stress, the aim of the present work is evaluation of the quantitative and qualitative response of amaranth grown in a Mediterranean environment of South Italy under combined drought and salinity stress.