In many world regions, osmotic and salt stresses are becoming the primary environmental conditions limiting successful establishment of crops. The old durum wheat landraces may provide a source of genes useful to enhance crop resilience to the abiotic stresses of dryland areas or foreseen as a result of climate change. With this in mind, in order to determine the effects of salt and osmotic stresses on durum wheat germination, an old Sicilian durum wheat landrace “Timilia” and a relatively recent cultivar “Mongibello” were investigated at various iso-osmotic solutions of NaCl and mannitol at osmotic potentials of: 0 – control, –0.125, –0.250, –0.500 and –0.750 MPa.
Under stress conditions, different germination and early growth behavior was observed in the two durum wheat genotypes. Timilia presented almost stable germination even at the highest osmotic stresses (96.7% and 88.3% seed germination at 0 and –0.750 MPa, respectively) showing a higher capacity of seed imbibition than Mongibello. The latter thus showed a higher sensitivity than the old landrace to the studied stresses. The variability ascertained in the response to salinity stress indicate that Timilia could be a source of interesting genes for breeding programs.