Tomatoes, the most cultivated vegetables worldwide, require large amounts of water and are adversely affected by water stress. Micro-Tom was used to assess the effects of β-(1,3)-glucan (paramylon) purified from the microalga Euglena gracilis on drought resistance and fruit quality profile.
Plants were grown in an aeroponic system under three cultivation conditions: optimal water regimen, water scarcity regimen, and water scarcity regimen coupled with a root treatment with paramylon. Eco–physiological, physicochemical and quality parameters were monitored and compared throughout the lifecycle of the plants.
Drought stress caused only a transient effect on the eco–physiological parameters of paramylon-treated plants, whereas physicochemical and biochemical parameters underwent significant variations. In particular, the fruits of paramylon-treated plants reached the first ripening stage two weeks before untreated plants grown under the optimal water regime, while the fruits of stressed untreated plants did not ripe beyond category II.
Moreover, antioxidant compounds (carotenoids, phenolic acid, and vitamins) of fruits from treated plants underwent a two-fold increase with respect to untreated plants, as well as soluble carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, and sucrose). These results show that paramylon increases plant resistance to drought and highly improves the quality profile of the fruits with respect to untreated plants grown under drought stress.
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