The effect of foliar salicylic acid (SA) applications (10⁻³ and 10⁻⁵ M) on activities of nitrate reductase, guaiacol peroxidase (POD), superoxide dismutases (SOD), catalase (CAT) and proline enzymes and physiological parameters was evaluated in two ginger varieties (Halia Bentong and Halia Bara) under greenhouse conditions. In both varieties, tested treatments generally enhanced photosynthetic rate and total dry weight. Photosynthetic rate increases were generally accompanied by increased or unchanged stomatal conductance levels, although intercellular CO₂ concentrations of treated plants were typically lower than in controls. Lower SA concentrations were generally more effective in enhancing photosynthetic rate and plant growth. Exogenous application of SA increased antioxidant enzyme activities and proline content; the greatest responses were obtained in plants sprayed with 10⁻⁵ M SA, with significant increases observed in CAT (20.1%), POD (45.2%), SOD (44.1%) and proline (43.1%) activities. Increased CAT activity in leaves is naturally expected to increase photosynthetic efficiency and thus net photosynthesis by maintaining a constant CO₂ supply. Our results support the idea that low SA concentrations (10⁻⁵ M) may induce nitrite reductase synthesis by mobilizing intracellular NO³⁻ and can provide protection to nitrite reductase degradation in vivo in the absence of NO³⁻. Observed positive correlations among proline, SOD, CAT and POD activities in the studied varieties suggest that increased SOD activity was accompanied by increases in CAT and POD activities because of the high demands of H₂O₂ quenching.
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