Plant-derived protein biostimulants exhibit hormone-like activities promoting plant growth and yield, yet detailed investigations on hormonal function have remained limited. A study was conducted to investigate the effects of vegetal-derived-biostimulant on morphological and metabolic changes in cuttings of three herbaceous species demonstrating different rooting ability, basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), and chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum indicum L.), in comparison to auxin.
Unrooted cuttings were applied with or without biostimulant (100, 1000, 5000, and 10000 mg L−1) or auxin [1% indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) plus 0.5% 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA); 100, 200, 300, and 500 mg L−1] as a basal quick-dip, stuck into inert media, and evaluated at 20 days after placement under intermittent mist. Both compounds increased adventitious rooting in all cuttings.
Biostimulant required a significantly higher threshold for a series of adventitious rooting responses than auxin, and the maximum effectiveness was achieved at 5000 mg L−1 for biostimulant and 100, 200, and 300 mg L−1 for auxin in basil, tomato, and chrysanthemum, respectively. Adventitious rooting responses (dry mass and length) to biostimulant showed a gradual logarithmic rise as a function of increasing dosages, which was not in agreement with biphasic dose-response of auxin.
Biostimulant significantly increased or tended to increase fine roots in all tested cuttings, which was not consistent with auxin. Relatively high levels of endogenous brassinosteroids (BRs) were present in non-treated cuttings of basil, tomato, and chrysanthemum in decreasing order. Both compounds had no effects or concomitantly increased or decreased BR levels in plant tissues, with fewer effects on basil and tomato, containing high BR levels, but more prominent effects on chrysanthemum, containing relatively low BR levels. Contrasting effects of biostimulant and auxin were found in antioxidant activities, which were promoted by biostimulant but inhibited by auxin either in roots or shoots.
These results indicate that the hormonal effects of vegetal-derived biostimulant are primarily exerted by BR-mediated processes while involving interaction with auxin. Both the biostimulant-derived BRs and auxin were suggested to modulate endogenous BR pool via overlapping and interdependent regulatory functions, inducing morphological and metabolic changes during adventitious rooting of cuttings in a plant species-specific manner.