Effects of Trehalose and Polyacrylate-Based Hydrogels on Tomato Growth Under Drought
Abstract Background and Aims Hydrophilic amendments can enhance soil moisture content, which, in turn, can improve crop health under drought conditions. Understanding how different hydrogels interact with specific crops is necessary for optimal application. The soil conditioning abilities of a trehalose hydrogel and polyacrylate-based hydrogel were evaluated for tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) subjected to drought. Methods Tomato plants were transplanted into individual pots with soil that contained trehalose hydrogel (0.4 weight %), polyacrylate-based hydrogel (0.4 weight %), or no hydrogel and subjected to a well-watered treatment or to pronounced soil drought, with or without rewatering. The health of tomato plants was monitored by measuring leaf total chlorophyll (a+b) concentration, leaf water potential (Ψleaf), stomatal conductance (gs), and relative growth rate (RGR). Key Results The polyacrylate-based hydrogel, but not the trehalose hydrogel, improved tomato plant function under drought conditions, as indicated by improved gs and RGR relative to the well-watered control. However, when subjected to a second drought, neither hydrogel was effective, and neither prolonged survival. Conclusions The more hydrophilic polyacrylate-based hydrogel demonstrated promise in improving the growth of tomato plants under drought when included as a soil amendment at 0.4 weight %. This research is important for understanding the effects of these hydrogels as soil conditioners in drought prone systems.