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A Rootstock Provides Water Conservation for a Grafted Commercial Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) Line in Response to Mild-Drought Conditions: A Focus on Vegetative Growth and Photosynthetic Parameters
Nilsen, Erik T.
Tokuhisa, James G.
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The development of water stress resistant lines of commercial tomato by breeding or genetic engineering is possible, but will take considerable time before commercial varieties are available for production. However, grafting commercial tomato lines on drought resistant rootstock may produce drought tolerant commercial tomato lines much more rapidly. Due to changing climates and the need for commercial production of vegetables in low quality fields there is an urgent need for stress tolerant commercial lines of vegetables such as tomato. In previous observations we identified a scion root stock combination (‘BHN 602’ scion grafted onto ‘Jjak Kkung’ rootstock hereafter identified as 602/Jjak) that had a qualitative drought-tolerance phenotype when compared to the non-grafted line. Based on this initial observation, we studied photosynthesis and vegetative above-ground growth during mild-drought for the 602/Jjak compared with another scion-rootstock combination (‘BHN 602’ scion grafted onto ‘Cheong Gang’ rootstock hereafter identified as 602/Cheong) and a non-grafted control. Overall above ground vegetative growth was significantly lower for 602/Jjak in comparison to the other plant lines. Moreover, water potential reduction in response to mild drought was significantly less for 602/Jjak, yet stomatal conductance of all plant-lines were equally inhibited by mild-drought. Light saturated photosynthesis of 602/Jjak was less affected by low water potential than the other two lines as was the % reduction in mesophyll conductance. Therefore, the Jjak Kkung rootstock caused aboveground growth reduction, water conservation and increased photosynthetic tolerance of mild drought. These data show that different rootstocks can change the photosynthetic responses to drought of a high yielding, commercial tomato line. Also, this rapid discovery of one scion-rootstock combination that provided mild-drought tolerance suggests that screening more scion-rootstock combination for stress tolerance may rapidly yield commercially viable, stress tolerant lines of tomato.