Concomitant phytonutrient and transcriptome analysis of mature fruit and leaf tissues of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. Oregon Spring) grown using organic and conventional fertilizer

Enhanced levels of antioxidants, phenolic compounds, carotenoids and vitamin C have been reported for several crops grown under organic fertilizer, albeit with yield penalties. As organic agricultural practices continue to grow and find favor it is critical to gain an understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the factors that limit the yields in organically farmed crops. Concomitant phytochemical and transcriptomic analysis was performed on mature fruit and leaf tissues derived from Solanum lycopersicum L. ‘Oregon Spring’ grown under organic and conventional fertilizer conditions to evaluate the following hypotheses. 1. Organic soil fertilizer management results in greater allocation of photosynthetically derived resources to the synthesis of secondary metabolites than to plant growth, and 2. Genes involved in changes in the accumulation of phytonutrients under organic fertilizer regime will exhibit differential expression, and that the growth under different fertilizer treatments will elicit a differential response from the tomato genome. Both these hypotheses were supported, suggesting an adjustment of the metabolic and genomic activity of the plant in response to different fertilizers. Organic fertilizer treatment showed an activation of photoinhibitory processes through differential activation of nitrogen transport and assimilation genes resulting in higher accumulation of phytonutrients. This information can be used to identify alleles for breeding crops that allow for efficient utilization of organic inputs.