Heat stress negatively impacts plant growth and yield. The effects of carbon materials on plants in response to abiotic stress and antioxidant activity are poorly understood. In this study, we propose a new method for improving heat tolerance in cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) using a natural carbon material, shungite, which can be easily mixed into any soil. We analyzed the phenotype and physiological changes in cucumber plants maintained at 35 °C or 40 °C for 1 week. Our results show that shungite-treated cucumber plants had a healthier phenotype, exhibiting dark green leaves, compared to the plants in the control soil group. Furthermore, in the shungite-treated plants, the monodehydroascorbate content (a marker of oxidative damage) of the leaf was 34% lower than that in the control group. In addition, scavengers against reactive oxygen species, such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and peroxidase were significantly upregulated. These results indicate that the successive pre-treatment of soil with a low-cost natural carbon material can improve the tolerance of cucumber plants to heat stress, as well as improve the corresponding antioxidant activity.
Keywords: abiotic stress; antioxidant activity; cucumber; heat stress; natural carbon; shungite.