Electrical conductivity of nutrient solution influenced photosynthesis, quality, and antioxidant enzyme activity of pakchoi (Brassica campestris L. ssp. Chinensis) in a hydroponic system

PLoS One. 2018 Aug 29;13(8):e0202090. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202090. eCollection 2018.


To find an electrical conductivity (EC) in the nutrient solution used for pakchoi (Brassica campestris L. ssp. Chinensis) cultivation that optimizes the plant's physiology, growth, and quality, we conducted an experiment with eight EC treatments (from EC0 to EC9.6) in a hydroponic production system (i.e. soilless culture) under greenhouse condition in Shanghai, China. Plants biomass production, leaf photosynthesis, vegetable quality variables, tissue nitrate and nitrite contents, and antioxidant enzyme activities were measured. The results showed that very high (EC9.6) or low EC (EC0-0.6) treatments clearly decreased plants fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW), leaf size, leaf water content, leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (Gs), transpiration rate (Tr), and taste score. Nitrite content, and antioxidant enzyme activities were low in medium EC treatments (EC1.8 and EC2.4), but high in very high or low EC treatments. Leaf relative chlorophyll, ascorbic acid, and nitrate contents increased gradually from low EC to high EC treatments, while crude fiber and soluble sugar contents decreased. Based on growth and quality criteria, the optimal EC treatment would be EC1.8 or EC2.4 for pakchoi in the hydroponic production system. Too high or too low EC would induce nutrient stress, enhance plant antioxidant enzyme activities, and suppress pakchoi growth and quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brassica / metabolism*
  • Brassica / physiology
  • Brassica / standards
  • Electric Conductivity*
  • Hydroponics*
  • Nitrates / metabolism*
  • Nitrites / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plant Transpiration
  • Vegetables / standards


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Plant Proteins

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.5740269.v2

Grant support

This work was supported by the National High-tech Research and Development Program (863 Program) (2013AA103006), Shanghai Agriculture Applied Technology Development Program, China (grant no. T20170201) and Shanghai Science and Technology Committee Program (16DZ2282100). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.