Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is a warm-climate crop. Its cultivation extends to temperate regions where low temperatures can affect the course of the generative phase, which is primarily sensitive to abiotic stress.
The novelty of the present investigation consisted of characterising the heterostyly, pollination, and fertilisation biology of eggplants in field cultivations, which provided a basis for explaining the effect of a protective biostimulant on these processes. We aimed to investigate the flowering biology of three eggplant hybrids treated with Göemar BM-86®, containing Ascophylum nodosumextract, to determine the crucial mechanisms behind the increased flowering and fruit set efficiency and the final effect of increased yield.
The flower phenotype (long, medium or short-styled), fruit setting, and the number of seeds per fruit were recorded during the two vegetation periods. The numbers of pollen tubes and fertilised ovules in ovaries were evaluated during the generative stage of development to characterise the course of pollination and fertilisation for all types of flowers depending on the cultivar and biostimulant treatment.
The expression of heterostyly depended on the eggplant genotype, age of the plant, fruit load, and biostimulant treatment. Domination by long-styled flowers was observed, amounting to 41%, 42%, and 55% of all flowers of “Epic” F1, “Flavine” F1, and “Gascona” F1, respectively. This flower phenotype contained the highest number of pollen tubes in the style and the highest number of fertilised ovules.
The biostimulant had a positive effect on the flower and fruit set numbers, as well as on the pollination efficiency in all genotypes. Ascophylum nodosum extract could be used as an efficient stimulator of flowering and fruit setting for eggplant hybrids in field conditions in a temperate climatic zone.