Salt stress in maize: effects, resistance mechanisms, and management. A review

Muhammad Farooq*, Mubshar Hussain, Abdul Wakeel, Kadambot H.M. Siddique

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

423 Citations (Scopus)


Maize is grown under a wide spectrum of soil and climatic conditions. Maize is moderately sensitive to salt stress; therefore, soil salinity is a serious threat to its production worldwide. Understanding maize response to salt stress and resistance mechanisms and overviewing management options may help to devise strategies for improved maize performance in saline environments. Here, we reviewed the effects, resistance mechanisms, and management of salt stress in maize. Our main conclusions are as follows: (1) germination and stand establishment are more sensitive to salt stress than later developmental stages. (2) High rhizosphere sodium and chloride decrease plant uptake of nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. (3) Reduced grain weight and number are responsible for low grain yield in maize under salt stress. Sink limitations and reduced acid invertase activity in developing grains is responsible for poor kernel setting under salt stress. (4) Exclusion of excessive sodium or its compartmentation into vacuoles is an important adaptive strategy for maize under salt stress. (5) Apoplastic acidification, required for cell wall extensibility, is an important indicator of salt resistance, but not essential for better maize growth under salt stress. (6) Upregulation of antioxidant defense genes and β-expansin proteins is important for salt resistance in maize. (7) Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi improve salt resistance in maize due to better plant nutrient availability. (8) Seed priming is an effective approach for improving maize germination under salt stress. (9) Integration of screening, breeding and ion homeostasis mechanisms into a functional paradigm for the whole plant may help to enhance salt resistance in maize.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-481
Number of pages21
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoplastic acidification
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Carbon fixation
  • Expansion
  • Ion homeostasis
  • Osmotic adjustment
  • Plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria
  • Seed priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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