An open-air experiment was performed in Pistoia (Italy) to investigate the possible protective role played by different contents of UV-B absorbing compounds to realistic UV-B supplementation and to study its effect on plant fruit production. A mutant line and its normal counterpart of Lycopersicon esculentum Mill, which differ in the content of UV-B absorbing compounds, were used. Additional UV-B radiation in the field was supplied to simulate a 20% stratospheric ozone depletion. Two groups of plants were grown: ‘control’, where plants received only natural solar UV-B radiation, and ‘UV-B’ treatment, where plants were grown under supplemental UV-B.
The results of the experiment showed that the content of UV-B absorbing compounds of treated plants did not differ from that of the control in both lines. This indicates that natural sunlight, in Mediterranean areas, is saturating for synthesis of these compounds also in plants with normal content of UV-B absorbing compounds. Consequently, plants are not able to produce significant additional amounts of them, in response to a realistic UV-B supplementation, in order to protect the plant from additional UV-B radiation.
No different responses to the UV-B supplementation were found between the two lines. The most significant UV-B effect was an earlier reddening of fruits in comparison with the ‘control’ accompanied by a reduction in the size of mature fruits. No significant effects of UV-B treatment were observed in biomass accumulation, leaf ontogeny, flowering or productivity.