Plant Protein Boosts Tomato Yield and Quality Under Different Nitrogen Levels

Jenn Hoskins
29th May, 2024

Plant Protein Boosts Tomato Yield and Quality Under Different Nitrogen Levels

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The University of Tuscia study explored using Malvaceae-derived protein hydrolysates (PHs) to improve tomato plant growth and quality under different nitrogen conditions
  • Under optimal nitrogen conditions, the MDPH3 fraction increased plant biomass, fruit yield, and lycopene content
  • In nitrogen-limiting conditions, MDPH1 and MDPH2 increased biomass, while MDPH3 enhanced pigment content and all PH fractions improved fruit quality
Tomato cultivation is a significant part of global agriculture, and enhancing its growth and nutritional quality is a constant focus of research. A recent study from the University of Tuscia explored the use of protein hydrolysates (PHs) derived from the Malvaceae family to improve nitrogen nutrition and overall plant quality under varying nitrogen (N) conditions[1]. This research offers promising insights into sustainable agricultural practices. Nitrogen is a crucial nutrient for plant growth, but its efficient use remains a challenge in agriculture. Excessive and inefficient use of nitrogen fertilizers not only increases crop production costs but also contributes to environmental pollution[2]. Previous studies have highlighted the need for improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) through better agronomic practices and genetic modifications[2][3]. The current study adds to this body of knowledge by investigating the role of PHs in enhancing NUE and plant performance. The study conducted by the University of Tuscia involved a greenhouse experiment with tomato plants under both optimal (14 mM) and suboptimal (2 mM) nitrogen conditions. The plants were treated with a new Malvaceae-derived protein hydrolysate (MDPH) and its molecular fractions: MDPH1 (>10 kDa), MDPH2 (1-10 kDa), and MDPH3 (<1 kDa). The aim was to observe how these treatments affected plant growth, yield, and fruit quality under different nitrogen levels. Under optimal nitrogen conditions, the study found that the plants showed increased biomass, fruit yield, and higher photosynthetic pigment content in leaves compared to those grown under suboptimal nitrogen conditions. Specifically, the MDPH3 fraction led to an increase in dry weight, yield components, and lycopene content in the fruit. MDPH2 also resulted in higher lycopene accumulation under optimal nitrogen conditions. These findings align with earlier research that demonstrated the potential of PHs to improve plant growth and nitrogen status[4]. In nitrogen-limiting conditions, the study revealed distinct effects of the PH fractions compared to the whole MDPH and the control. MDPH1 and MDPH2 increased biomass, while MDPH3 enhanced pigment content. Regardless of nitrogen availability, all PH fractions improved fruit quality by increasing the soluble solid content (SSC). MDPH2 and MDPH3 also modified organic acid content and increased concentrations of flavonols, lignans, and stilbenes, which are beneficial compounds for human health. These results suggest that the molecular weight of peptides in PHs plays a crucial role in their effectiveness, with different fractions having specific impacts on plant performance. The study's findings are significant as they demonstrate the potential of PHs to enhance plant growth and quality, even under suboptimal nitrogen conditions. This could lead to more sustainable agricultural practices by reducing the dependency on high nitrogen fertilization, which is often unsustainable and environmentally harmful. Previous research has shown that fertilization regimes affect the soil microbiome, and excessive nitrogen use can disrupt beneficial microbial processes[5]. By improving nitrogen use efficiency through the use of PHs, it may be possible to mitigate these negative effects. In conclusion, the University of Tuscia's study highlights the effectiveness of Malvaceae-derived protein hydrolysates in improving tomato plant performance under varying nitrogen conditions. The research underscores the importance of considering the molecular weight of peptides in PHs and their specific impacts on plant growth and fruit quality. These findings provide a valuable contribution to the ongoing efforts to enhance nitrogen use efficiency and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

AgricultureBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Foliar applications of a Malvaceae-derived protein hydrolysate and its fractions differentially modulate yield and functional traits of tomato under optimal and suboptimal nitrogen application.

Published 28th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Fate of nitrogen in agriculture and environment: agronomic, eco-physiological and molecular approaches to improve nitrogen use efficiency.

3) Understanding plant response to nitrogen limitation for the improvement of crop nitrogen use efficiency.

4) Protein Hydrolysate Stimulates Growth in Tomato Coupled With N-Dependent Gene Expression Involved in N Assimilation.

5) Protist communities are more sensitive to nitrogen fertilization than other microorganisms in diverse agricultural soils.

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