National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



JOURNAL OF PLANT NUTRITION, 22(11), 1745-1761 (1999)


U.S. Government Work


Sodium (Na) movement between plants and humans is one of the more critical aspects of bioregenerative systems of life support, which NASA is studying for the establishment of long-term bases on the Lunar or Martian surface. This study was conducted to determine the extent to which Na can replace potassium (K) in red beet (Beta vulgaris L. ssp vulgaris) without adversely affecting metabolic functions such as water relations, photosynthetic rates, and thus growth. Two cultivars, Ruby Queen and Klein Bol, were grown for 42 days at 1200 μmol mol-1 CO2 in a growth chamber using a re-circulating nutrient film technique with 0%, 75%, 95%, and 98% Na substitution for K in a modified half-strength Hoagland solution. Total biomass of Ruby Queen was greatest at 95% Na substitution and equal at 0% and 98% Na substitution. For Klein Bol, there was a 75% reduction in total biomass at 98% Na substitution. Nearly 95% of the total plant K was replaced with Na at 98% Na substitution in both cultivars. Potassium concentrations in leaves decreased from 120 g kg-1 dwt in 0% Na substitution to 3.5 g kg-1 dwt at 98% Na substitution. Leaf chlorophyll concentration, photosynthetic rate, and osmotic potential were not affected in either cultivar by Na substitution for K. Leaf glycinebetaine levels were doubled at 75% Na substitution in Klein Bol, but decreased at higher levels of Na substitution. For Ruby Queen, glycinebetaine levels in leaf increased with the first increase of Na levels and were maintained at the higher Na levels. These results indicate that in some cultivars of red beet, 95% of the normal tissue K can be replaced by Na without a reduction in growth.