Short-term Salt-shock Effects on Tomato Fruit Quality, Yield, and Vegetative Prediction of Subsequent Fruit Quality

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Commercial recommendations exist for using short-term salt-shocks on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) to improve fruit quality. Six experiments were conducted to 1) assess the influence of nutrient concentration and short-term salt-shocks on fruit quality and yield and 2) identify a vegetative predictor of subsequent fruit quality. The first objective was addressed in three nutrient film technique (NFT) experiments (Expts. 1-3). Four treatments were applied: two maintained constant at two baseline concentrations (0.25X and 1X-commercial level) and two provided salt-shock periods of 30 min, twice daily. There were no effects of baseline concentration or salt-shocks on total number and weight of marketable fruit. Fruit quality was better at the 1X baseline concentration as observed by higher titratable acidity (Expt. 2), higher percent dry matter (Expts. 2 and 3), higher soluble solids concentration (Expt. 2), and lower pH (Expts. 2 and 3), however, weight per marketable fruit was lower (Expt. 2). Salt-shocks had little effect on fruit quality, refuting its commercial potential. Salt-shocks decreased fruit pH (Expts. 1 and 3). However, titratable acidity increased at the 0.25X level and decreased at the 1X level (Expt. 3). In Expt. 2, but not in Expt. 3, citrate concentration in the fifth leaf from the apex of young vegetative plants was correlated with subsequent fruit quality. Three additional experiments in static hydroponics with vegetative plants showed no significant differences in leaf citrate levels due to a single, short-term salt-shock. Thus, citrate is not a good predictor of fruit quality.

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