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Leaf shape is a predictor of fruit quality and cultivar performance in tomato

By Steven D Rowland, Kristina Zumstein, Hokuto Nakayama, Zizhang Cheng, Amber M Flores, Daniel H. Chitwood, Julin N. Maloof, Neelima R. Sinha

Posted 21 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/584466 (published DOI: 10.1111/nph.16403)

SCommercial tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the most widely grown vegetable crops worldwide. Heirloom tomatoes retain extensive genetic diversity and a considerable range of fruit quality and leaf morphological traits. Here the role of leaf morphology was investigated for its impact on fruit quality. Heirloom cultivars were grown in field conditions and BRIX by Yield (BY) and other traits measured over a fourteen-week period. The complex relationships among these morphological and physiological traits were evaluated using PLS-Path Modeling, and a consensus model developed. Photosynthesis contributed strongly to vegetative biomass and sugar content of fruits but had a negative impact on yield. Conversely leaf shape, specifically rounder leaves, had a strong positive impact on both fruit sugar content and yield. Cultivars such as Stupice and Glacier, with very round leaves, had the highest performance in both fruit sugar and yield. Our model accurately predicted BY for two commercial cultivars using leaf shape data as input. This study revealed the importance of leaf shape to fruit quality in tomato, with rounder leaves having significantly improved fruit quality. This correlation was maintained across a range of diverse genetic backgrounds and shows the importance of leaf morphology in tomato crop improvement.

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