Journal Articles

Enhancement of Tomato Fruit Lycopene by Potassium Is Cultivar Dependent

June 13, 2009

Enhancement of Tomato Fruit Lycopene by Potassium Is Cultivar Dependent

  1. Henry Taber
    Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, 

    Penelope Perkins-Veazie USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Lane, OK 74555, Shanshan Lil and Wendy White Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, Steven Rodermel and Yang Xu


The purpose of this experiment was to determine the response of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) cultivars with fruit of average and high lycopene to increased K fertilization. The field experiment was designed as a factorial, split-plot, randomized complete block with four replications. The main plot consisted of K rates ranging from 0 to 372 kg·ha−1 K as KCl, and the subplot was cultivar (‘Mountain Spring’ or the high-lycopene Florida hybrid, ‘Fla. 8153’). The soil type was a well-drained, central Iowa loam with a soil test level considered low. The soil K application effect on total marketable fruit yield was linear (P < 0.001, Y = 53 Mg·ha−1 + 0.084x, r2 = 0.51) with both cultivars responding similarly. Fruit K analysis indicated a linear response to fertilization across four harvest dates, from 1236 to 1991 mg·kg−1, fresh weight basis. Harvest date had no effect on fruit lycopene concentration, but there was a significant (P = 0.006) interaction of K fertilization rate and cultivar. Overall, ‘Fla. 8153’ contained 9.5 mg·kg−1 more lycopene in fruit tissue than ‘Mountain Spring’. ‘Mountain Spring’ lycopene concentration was not enhanced by higher K fertilization (44.2 mg·kg−1). ‘Fla. 8153’ lycopene concentration increased 21.7% at the highest K rate compared with lower rates (62.9 vs. 51.7 mg·kg−1, respectively). A controlled greenhouse study in the fall of 2005 with the same cultivars indicated similar results. Fruit K concentration for ‘Fla. 8153’ was significantly (P < 0.01) correlated to the fruit carotenoids, phytoene and phytofluene, indicating a possible role for K in one of the enzymes that synthesize phytoene. In the field and greenhouse studies, increasing fruit K concentration in the high-lycopene ‘Fla. 8153’ depressed fruit β-carotene by 53%. These results indicate that K fertilization can affect carotenoid biosynthesis, and the response of tomato to a high K rate is genotype dependent.

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