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Article|14 Mar 2022|OPEN
Leveraging a graft collection to develop metabolome-based trait prediction for the selection of tomato rootstocks with enhanced salt tolerance
Chao Song1 , Tania Acuña2 , Michal Adler-Agmon3 , Shimon Rachmilevitch2 , Simon Barak2 and Aaron Fait,2 ,
1The Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies, The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, 8499000, Israel
2Albert Katz Department of Dryland Biotechnologies, French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, 8499000, Israel
3R&D Southern Arava, Hevel Eilot, 8882000, Israel
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

Horticulture Research 9,
Article number: uhac061 (2022)
Views: 30

Received: 02 Oct 2021
Accepted: 27 Feb 2022
Published online: 14 Mar 2022


Grafting has been demonstrated to significantly enhance the salt tolerance of crops. However, breeding efforts to develop enhanced graft combinations are hindered by knowledge-gaps as to how rootstocks mediate scion-response to salt stress. We grafted the scion of cultivated M82 onto rootstocks of 254 tomato accessions and explored the morphological and metabolic responses of grafts under saline conditions (EC = 20 dS m−1) as compared to self-grafted M82 (SG-M82). Correlation analysis and Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator were performed to address the association between morphological diversification and metabolic perturbation. We demonstrate that grafting the same variety onto different rootstocks resulted in scion phenotypic heterogeneity and emphasized the productivity efficiency of M82 irrespective of the rootstock. Spectrophotometric analysis to test lipid oxidation showed largest variability of malondialdehyde (MDA) equivalents across the population, while the least responsive trait was the ratio of fruit fresh weight to total fresh weight (FFW/TFW). Generally, grafts showed greater values for the traits measured than SG-M82, except for branch number and wild race-originated rootstocks; the latter were associated with smaller scion growth parameters. Highly responsive and correlated metabolites were identified across the graft collection including malate, citrate, and aspartate, and their variance was partly related to rootstock origin. A group of six metabolites that consistently characterized exceptional graft response was observed, consisting of sorbose, galactose, sucrose, fructose, myo-inositol, and proline. The correlation analysis and predictive modelling, integrating phenotype- and leaf metabolite data, suggest a potential predictive relation between a set of leaf metabolites and yield-related traits.