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Keywords:

  • grey mould;
  • leaf pruning;
  • plant hormones;
  • Solanum lycopersicum ;
  • stem infections;
  • wounding

In high-tech, heated tomato glasshouses, stem infections caused by Botrytis cinerea usually end up girdling the stem, resulting in plant death and consequently high economic losses. Such infections originate primarily from wounds created during leaf pruning, a common cultural practice in which it is intended to remove leaves completely, resulting in smooth stem wounds. However, hasty leaf pruning often results in numerous petiole stubs accidentally left behind. In this study analysis of disease incidences clearly proved that pruning leaves flush to the stem resulted in absolute resistance of the stem wounds, whereas petiole stubs displayed a high level of susceptibility to B. cinerea. Postponing inoculation of wounds after pruning indicated that development of nearly complete resistance occurs within 48 h after deleafing. Monitoring of the wound wetness period showed that drying of the wound surface is not the cause of the decreased susceptibility, contrary to what was commonly believed. Tomato mutants deficient in disease signalling showed altered phenotypes for susceptibility to B. cinerea, indicating that defences against this pathogen in petiole stubs depend on ethylene signalling. Additionally, the decreased susceptibility of mutants deficient in the biosynthesis of jasmonates and abscisic acid suggest an antagonistic effect of these signal molecules. On the other hand, resistance of smooth stem wounds could not be altered by disruption of salicylic acid, ethylene, jasmonate or abscisic acid signalling. This indicates that this remarkable absolute resistance to B. cinerea does not depend on the major disease signalling pathways.