Plant biostimulants are of interest as they can stimulate plant growth and increase resource utilization. There is still no information on the use of plant growth-promoters under variable nutritional conditions in the nursery and the effects on tomato seedling growth and plant performance after transplant.
A recent study aimed to evaluate the suitability of gibberellic acid (GA3) or bacterial biostimulant treatments to enhance the growth and quality of greenhouse-grown tomato seedlings, fertigated with increasing nutrient rates and to assess the efficacy of these treatments on the early growth of tomato plants.
During autumn 2019, tomato seedlings were inoculated with 1.5 g L−1 of TNC BactorrS13 (a commercial biostimulant containing 1.3 × 108 CFU g−1 of Bacillus spp.) or sprayed with 10−5 M GA3 and fertigated with a nutrient solution containing 0, 1, 2 and 4 g L−1 of NPK fertilizer (20-20-20) when they reached the 11th BBCH growth stage for tomato. Subsequently, the seedlings were evaluated in greenhouse cultivation for 60 days until at least the 61st BBCH growth stage (January 2020).
The growth of the tomato seedlings increased curvilinearly in relation to the fertigation rates. The GA3-treated seedlings showed similar or even higher growth parameters than the control seedlings fed with 4 g L−1 of fertilizer but with half of the nutrients. The inoculation of the substrate with Bacillus spp. had negative effects in the absence of fertigation but determined a greater growth at the highest fertigation rate. The bacterial inoculum of seedlings had longer-term effects than the GA3 treatment during the plant growth, but these effects were noticeable mainly when the bacterial biostimulant was associated with the highest fertigation rate.