Transplanting results in transplant shock in seedlings, limiting stand establishment and productivity of many vegetable crops (Agehara and Leskovar, 2012; Vavrina, 2002). Transplant shock is caused by various types of abiotic stress occurring during the transport and transplanting of seedlings (Vavrina, 2002). Seedlings are also subjected to abiotic stress after transplanting, such as direct sunlight, wind, and temperature extremes. Common symptoms of transplant shock include leaf chlorosis, leaf abscission, impaired or stunted growth, wilting, and seedling mortality (Vavrina, 2002). The degree and duration of these stress symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type and severity of stress. Minimizing growth interruption caused by transplant shock is critical to successful stand establishment of vegetable seedlings.
Transplant shock is not simply physical damage in seedlings, but it is the consequence of adaptive stress responses regulated by multiple phytohormones to cope with dynamic changes in growing conditions (Srivastava, 2002; Taiz and Zeiger, 2010). For example, mechanical stress during shipping and transplanting operations stimulates the synthesis of ethylene in seedlings (Druege, 2006). As a strong antagonist of gibberellic acid, increased production of this gaseous phytohormone inhibits stem elongation and leaf expansion, while promoting stem thickening (Biddington, 1986; Khan, 2006; Tholen et al., 2006). Other ethylene-induced responses include leaf epinasty and senescence (Ferrante and Francini, 2006; Ursin and Bradford, 1989). The resulting compact growth and overall growth retardation are morphological adaptations to withstand mechanical stress, such as physical contact, vibration, and wind (Biddington, 1986; Druege, 2006; Tholen et al., 2006). Abscisic acid is another phytohormone that induces physiological and morphological adaptive changes (Srivastava, 2002). Water uptake capacity in newly transplanted seedlings may be limited because of root injury during transplanting and disturbed root–soil contact (Burdett, 1990). Water deficit increases accumulation of abscisic acid in leaves, which in turn, induces stomatal closure to reduce transpirational water loss (Davies and Jones, 1991). Abscisic acid also limits plant water use by inhibiting leaf expansion and thus limiting increases in transpirational area (Van Volkenburgh, 1999).
Many chemical compounds have been evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing transplant shock (Berkowitz and Rabin, 1988; del Amor et al., 2010; Goreta et al., 2007; Iriti et al., 2009; Moftah and Al-Humaid, 2005). Antitranspirants can reduce plant water loss by limiting transpiration physically or physiologically (Park et al., 2016). The most popularly used physical antitranspirants are spray emulsions of latex, wax, or acrylic that form thin films over leaf surfaces and block stomata (Park et al., 2016). Other physical antitranspirants, such as kaolin clay, are reflective materials, which prevent the absorption of radiant energy, thereby reducing leaf temperatures and transpiration (Bittelli et al., 2001; Jifon and Syvertsen, 2003; Moftah and Al-Humaid, 2005). Abscisic acid acts as a physiological antitranspirant that reduces transpirational water loss by inducing stomatal closure and inhibiting leaf expansion (Davies and Jones, 1991; Taiz and Zeiger, 2010). Plants can also be acclimated to adverse growing conditions using priming agents that activate defense mechanisms in metabolic processes (Tuteja and Sarvajeet, 2012).
Most of these chemicals aim to reduce postplanting water stress. Although their beneficial effects are reported in many previous studies, they appear to be pronounced mainly when plants are under severe water stress (Agehara and Leskovar, 2012; Berkowitz and Rabin, 1988; Moftah and Al-Humaid, 2005). Under optimum growing conditions, conversely, antitranspirants may have negative side effects. Stomatal closure reduces water stress at the expense of CO2 supply to photosynthesis (Lawlor, 2002). Agehara and Leskovar (2012) reported that stomatal limitation to photosynthesis by exogenous abscisic acid limited shoot dry matter accumulation in muskmelon seedlings. Other negative side effects of abscisic acid include leaf chlorosis, leaf abscission, and excessive inhibition in leaf expansion and stem elongation (Agehara and Leskovar, 2014a, 2014b, 2015, 2017; Park et al., 2016). In addition, the performance of film-forming antitranspirants is limited primarily on the adaxial leaf surface and is dependent highly on spray coverage (Goreta et al., 2007).
In contrast to water stress, mechanical stress is unavoidable regardless of postplanting growing conditions. Mechanical stress occurs during the transport and transplanting of seedlings, as they are moved from a transplant nursery, vibrated in trays during shipment, pulled from trays, and planted into the soil (Cantliffe, 1993). It stimulates ethylene production in seedlings, which in turn, induces overall growth retardation as a stress adaptation strategy. Therefore, we hypothesized that, under well-managed field conditions, transplant shock is caused primarily by ethylene-induced stress responses, and that inhibiting ethylene action can reduce transplant shock by maintaining uninterrupted growth. This new stress-management approach will have large-scale applicability because its efficacy will not depend on the presence of postplanting stress.
In this study, a new spray formulation of 1-MCP was used to inhibit ethylene perception in tomato seedlings by inactivating ethylene receptors. The objective of this study was to examine the efficacy of preplant 1-MCP treatment to suppress ethylene-induced stress responses and its effectiveness in improving postplanting growth and yield of tomato.
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