Soil salinity causes an annual deep negative impact to the global agricultural economy. In this study, the effects of salinity on early seedling physiology of two Egyptian cotton (Gossypium barbadense L.) cultivars differing in their salinity tolerance were examined. Also the potential use of a low cost mini-rhizotron system to measure variation in root system architecture (RSA) traits existing in both cultivars was assessed. Salt tolerant cotton cultivar ‘Giza 90’ produced significantly higher root and shoot biomass, accumulated lower Na+/K+ ratio through a higher Na+ exclusion from both roots and leaves as well as synthesized higher proline contents compared to salt sensitive ‘Giza 45’ cultivar. Measuring RSA in mini-rhizotrons containing solid MS nutrient medium as substrate proved to be more precise and efficient than peat moss/sand mixture. We report superior values of main root growth rate, total root system size, main root length, higher number of lateral roots and average lateral root length in ‘Giza 90’ under salinity. Higher lateral root density and length together with higher root tissue tolerance of Na+ ions in ‘Giza 90’ give it an advantage to be used as donor genotype for desirable root traits to other elite cultivars.
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