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Effects of Soil Salinity on Growth of two Butternut Squash (Cucurbita Moschata l. Mellonia) Varieties in Mwea, kenya

Author(s): Nyambura M, Gathaara M, Menge D, Wanjogu R

Eighty percent of Kenya is covered by the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) which is prone to salinity as aridity exacerbates salinity. Farmers in these semi-arid areas have adopted growth of non-staple food. Butternut squash is widely cultivated as it requires minimal rainfall and very little labor. Despite its potential, little research has been carried out specifically on growth response to salinity. This study was carried out to determine the effects of salinity on growth of Waltham butternut (Waltham) and Jupiter F1 hybrid (Jupiter) which are among the common varieties grown by farmers in Kenya. The two varieties were subjected to five NaCl concentrations i.e. 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100 mM resulting in ten treatments. These were arranged in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. A net plot was established from which the following data were recorded; germination percentage, plant height, leaf number, leaf area and plant girth. The data were subjected to Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and means were separated using Least Significant Difference (LSD) at 5 percent level. Salinity significantly reduced germination percentage, leaf number, leaf area, plant height/length and plant girth of Waltham and Jupiter. The depressive effect of salt was less marked on growth parameters of Jupiter implying it is more salt tolerant compared to Waltham. Jupiter is therefore recommended for cultivation in environments where salinity is endemic. Further studies should be done on this variety as a source of genes for salt tolerance that could be exploited in future breeding programs.

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