Desert tomato plants grow at minimal water availability

Wild relatives of crops frequently are more resistant to environmental stress factors than modern crop cultivars. Therefore, wild relatives might be sources of genes that improve stress tolerance or resistance. A wild tomato species Solanum pennellii originating from desert environments has thick leaves and copes well with water limitation. Phenotyping with a Greenhouse Scanalyzer revealed that S. penellii plants continued growth at water limiting conditions whereas common tomato plants (S. lycopersicum) stopped growth and leaf area started shrinking due to wilting. Even without water supply, leaf area did not shrink, indicating that wilting was prevented. Although growing slower than common tomato plants in moist soil, the desert-adapted wild tomato plants were able to maintain growth and prevent wilting at drought.

Coneva, Viktoriya; Frank, Margaret H.; Balaguer, Maria A. de Luis; Li, Mao; Sozzani, Rosangela; Chitwood, Daniel H. (2017): Genetic Architecture and Molecular Networks Underlying Leaf Thickness in Desert-Adapted Tomato Solanum pennellii. In: PLANT PHYSIOLOGY 175 (1), S. 376–391. DOI: 10.1104/pp.17.00790.