Researchers from the University of Salamanca have discovered a biological method for inherited two-fold improvement of tomato plants which allows them to reach up to 30 percent more growth and provides them with effective protection against pathogens in successive generations.

A study carried out by researchers of the Hispano-Portuguese Institute for Agricultural Reseach(CIALE) in Salamanca reveals the growth potential of tomato plants induced by interaction with the fungus Trichoderma atroviride, which is transmitted to the next generations in addition to immunizing them from the nematode Meloidogyne javanica, one of their main pathogens and often a cause of important economic losses. This will mean a significant improvement in the yield of future harvests.

The The Phytopathology and Biological Control Group comprising Hugo Agripino de Medeiros, María Belén Rubio, Rosa Hermosa and Enrique Monte is working on a project to improve tomato crops using as a disease control agent the fungus Trichoderma atroviride, which is also known to improve up to 30% the growth of the plant on which it acts. Previous studies have indicated that having the fungus intervene on the roots of the plant can help it develop strong growth under normal conditions – without external pathogens or stressors, such as lack of water, higher soil salinity or excessive cold or heat. Similarly, T. atroviride is an effective remedy against the nematode Meloidogyne javanica, the main enemy of tomato crops that gets into the tissues of the root, forming infective galls that eventually kill the plant. The presence of Trichoderma in the root induces in the plant the production of defense-related phytohormones, such as salicylic acid, jasmonic acid and ethylene, achieving a 42% reduction in the number of galls generated by this small worm, 60% less eggs deposited and a decrease of up to 90% of adult individuals who finally manage to colonize it. A third improvement due to the presence of the fungus in the plant is the better resistance it has to the external stressors mentioned above.

Until now it was thought that Trichoderma could act only in one way or the other: if it combated the nematode it did not promote growth and vice versa, if it boosted growth, it could not fight the pathogens. This is because either of these actions entails such a high energy expenditure for the plant that it has to economize its use, either for improvement or defense strategies.

However, the experiment led by Enrique Monte and published in the prestigious Scientific Reports of the Nature group shows that a plant treated with T. atroviride produces seeds that give rise to a next generation of plants that are bigger and at the same time more resistant to pathogens like M. javanica, and thus we obtain a doubly improved plant in a natural way.

Posted by Juan M. Corchado

Juan Manuel Corchado (15 May 1971, Salamanca, Spain) is Professor at the University of Salamanca. He has been Vice-Rector for Research from 2013 to 2017 and Director of the Science Park of the University of Salamanca. Elected as Dean of the Faculty of Science twice, he holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Salamanca and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of the West of Scotland. He leads the renowned BISITE (Bioinformatics, Intelligent Systems and Educational Technology) Research Group, created in 2000. Director of the IoT Digital Innovation Hub and President of the AIR Institute, J. M. Corchado is also Visiting Professor at the Osaka Institute of Technology since January 2015, Visiting Professor at the Universiti Malaysia Kelantan and Member of the Advisory Group on Online Terrorist Propaganda of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (EUROPOL). J. M. Corchado has been president of the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society, and academic coordinator of the University Institute for Research in Art and Animation Technology at the University of Salamanca, as well as researcher at the Universities of Paisley (UK), Vigo (Spain) and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK). He currently combines all his activity with the direction of Master programmes in Security, Digital Animation, Mobile Telephony, Information Systems Management, Internet of Things, Social Media, 3D Design and Printing, Blockchain, Z System, Industry 4.0, Agile Project Management, and Smart Cities & Intelligent Buildings, at the University of Salamanca and his work as editor-in-chief of the journals ADCAIJ (Advances in Distributed Computing and Artificial Intelligence Journal), OJCST (Oriental Journal of Computer Science and Technology) or Electronics MDPI (Computer Science & Engineering section). J. M. Corchado mainly works on projects related to Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, IoT, Fog Computing, Edge Computing, Smart Cities, Smart Grids and Sentiment Analysis. He has recently been included in the board of trustees of the AstraZeneca Foundation, along with other health professionals and researchers recognised for bringing scientific knowledge closer to society.

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