Positive Adjectives! – Tomato transpiration, wild cotton, super-plants?

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Welcome to another week of doomsday escapism. We bring you a cool story about transpiring tomatoes, wonder about wild cotton and are suspicious about road-side super-plants. And we ask: What is your favourite idiom that translates poorly into English? 

Transpiration from Tomato Fruit Occurs Primarily via Trichome-Associated Transcuticular Polar Pores, Eric A. Fich, Josef Fisher, Dani Zamir, Jocelyn K.C. Rose, Plant Physiology Dec 2020, 184 (4) 1840-1852; DOI: 10.1104/pp.20.01105

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Behind the scenes of Plants and Pipettes

[These are the notes Joram took based on the paper.]
  • Tomatoes. We can’t live without them
  • Very good
  • They do dry out though eventually which is not so good
  • When plants dry out (transpire), they do that with their stomata
  • BUT: TOMATOES ARE ASTOMATOUS
  • The fruits don’t transpire through stomata 
  • HOW I ask HOW?!
  • Well actually there are other ways to transpire
  • 9 out 10 transpiration experts agree that the cuticular (wax layer) blocks a lot of transpiration, but not all of it
  • BUT HOW do they transpire when there is a layer of wax that is impermeable to water
  • Good question
  • Nobody knows
  • UNTIL NOW
  • It could be through the cuticular. The wax layer could be differently THICK or made from different waxes
  • or it could have spots where hydrophilic sugars let water through
  • who knows
  • guess what, we will know in like ten minutes
  • So the researchers first needed things to compare. Without compare no information share
  • They screened almost 400 (398) tomato varieties from three species in the field for their water retention abilities
  • Some transpire a lot, others less so
  • They picked exemples from both extremes: four low-water-loss lines, and five high-water-loss lines
  • Now they could compare them and try to find what one group had that made it better than the other group
  • They measured many things
  • Was it cuticular thickness –> NO correlation with water loss
  • What about cuticle permeance -> NAH
  • Or cuticle composition? Guess what (no)
  • Nothing correlated with the water loss behaviour
  • so what could it be?
  • THEY NOTICED SOMETIN
  • to control for damage of the cuticle, they would use a water soluble staining solution. If the cuticle was damaged, it would show up as blue spots
  • Oh my gosh there were so many blue spots but they were tiny
  • Upon closer inspection it turned out to be small holes
  • from trichomes!
  • Trichomes are the pointy needle bits on tomato stems and fruit
  • When the trichome breaks, it leaves a small spot that is water soluble
  • and guess what: the tomatoes that easily lost water had more trichome holes than the ones that kept their water
  • The whole story gives a good indication about tomato fruit transpiration and sets a goal for breeders: trichome number on fruit might best be kept low to avoid transpiration during transport
  • Because interestingly: wild relatives of tomatoes have less trichomes on their fruit, but the more we domesticated them, the more trichomes they would accumulate as a biproduct of breeding

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