comparison of lycopene, b-carotene and phenolic contents of tomato using conventional
and ecological horticultural practices, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (aMF)
Comparación del contenido de licopeno, b-caroteno y fenoles en tomate aplicando un manejo
hortícola convencional y ecológico y hongos formadores de micorrizas arbusculares (HFMA)
christian ulrichs1, gerhard Fischer2, carmen Büttner3 and inga Mewis4
Tomato fruits are rich in anti-oxidant compounds that
Los frutos de tomate son ricos en compuestos antioxidantes
have been recognized as beneficial for human health.
que han sido reconocidos como benéficos para la salud humana
Horticultural practices can influence the concentration of
y los manejos hortícolas pueden influir la concentración de
these secondary metabolites. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
estos metabolitos secundarios. Los hongos formadores de mi-
(AMF) can increase nutrient and water absorption of plants.
corrizas arbusculares (HFMA) pueden influir en la absorción
The experiment, performed under glasshouse, examined
de nutrientes y agua por la planta. El estudio, llevado a cabo
whether organically grown ‘Vitella F1’ tomatoes differed in
en invernadero, examinó si tomates ‘Vitella F1’, cultivados
their fruit content of lycopene, b-carotene and total phenols
orgánicamente, se diferencian en su contenido de licopeno,
from that found in conventionally grown tomatoes. Treatments
b-caroteno y fenoles totales en los frutos de tomates maneja-
were the cultivation methods: conventional, organic,
dos convencionalmente. Los tratamientos fueron los métodos
conventional+AMF and organic+AMF. When comparing
de cultivo: convencional, orgánico, convencional+HFMA y
the cultivation method, no significant differences for the
orgánico+HFMA. Comparando los métodos de cultivo, no se
analyzed nutritional parameters were found; only tomatoes
encontró ninguna diferencia significativa para los parámetros
grown organically had slightly lower total phenolic contents.
nutritivos analizados; solamente tomates manejados orgánica-
In both cultivation methods, tomato plants inoculated with
mente tuvieron un contenido de fenoles totales un poco menor.
AMF (Glomus sp.) built higher lycopene content in fruits than
En los dos métodos de cultivo, las plantas inoculadas con
those without inoculation. Organic grown tomatoes increased
HFMA (Glomus sp.) formaron contenidos más altos de licopeno
b-carotene and total phenolic contents in fruits as a result of
en los frutos que los sin inoculación. Los tomates manejados or-
the AMF treatment. AMF applications increased root fresh
gánicamente aumentaron su concentración de b-caroteno y de
weight but not shoot fresh weight. The improved growth and
los fenoles totales a consecuencia del tratamiento con HFMA.
nutrient acquisition in tomato demonstrated the potential of
La aplicación de HFMA aumentó el peso fresco del fruto pero
AMF colonization for increased antioxidant compounds in
no el del tallo. El aumento del crecimiento y la adquisición
fruits. White fly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) was controlled
de los nutrientes en tomate demostraron el potencial de la
successfully with application of diatomaceous earth Fossil
colonización con HFMA para incrementar la concentración
Shield® 90 in organic treatments as well as with Applaud® in
de compuestos antioxidantes en el fruto. La mosca blanca
the conventional cultivation methods.
(Trialeurodes vaporariorum) fue controlada exitosamente con la
aplicación de la tierra diatomaceous Fossil Shield® 90 en los tra-
tamientos orgánicos y con Applaud® en el cultivo convencional.
Key words: ecological farming, mycorrhiza, carotenoids,
Palabras clave: cultivo orgánico, micorriza, carotenoides, pro-
antioxidants, nutraceutic properties, white fly, diatomaceous
piedades nutracéuticas, mosca blanca, tierra diatomaceous.
example, the annual per capita consumption in Germany
is about 19 kg, of which about 7 kg are fresh tomatoes
Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) are one of the
and 12 kg tomato products (Pauli, 2006). In Colombia,
most popular vegetables products. Worldwide 124,000,000
tomatoes are the second most important vegetable crop
t of tomatoes were consumed in 2005 (PHN, 2007). For
with a production area of about 8,688 ha (241.987 t) in 2006
Fecha de recepción: septiembre 18 de 2007. Aceptado para publicación: abril 9 de 2008
Professor, Institute for Horticultural Sciences, Department Urban Horticulture, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Associate professor, Agronomy Faculty, National University of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor, Institute for Horticultural Sciences, Department Phytomedicine, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Associate Researcher, Institute for Horticultural Sciences, Department Urban Horticulture, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Agronomía Colombiana 26(1), 40-46, 2008
and a per capita consumption of 9.34 kg·a-1 (PNH, 2007).
social, ecological and economic aspects of the long-term
Tomatoes are rich in nutrients, especially potassium, folic
soil - plant animal - human being relationship. Nowadays
acid, and vitamin C, and contain a mixture of different
many discussions center around the extent to which
carotenoids, including vitamin A effective ß-carotene,
ecological cultivation procedures affect value-giving
as well as lycopene (Wilcox et al., 2003). Variation in the
secondary plant contents (Brandt and Molgaard, 2001).
concentration of these compounds has been the focus
of much recent research on how genetics and cultural
Myccorhizas are the most widespread associations between
management contribute to fruit composition (Dumas et
microorganism and higher plants (Marschner, 2002).
al., 2006). Fruits and vegetables have received particular
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) belong to the order
attention from researchers and nutritionists because
Glomales (Zygomycota), are obligatorily biotrophic and
they contain high amounts of known antioxidants such
form mutual symbiosis with about 80% of field-grown
as polyphenols, ascorbic acid, tocopherol, b-carotene,
plants (Barea and Jeffries, 1995, Öpik and Rolfe, 2005).
lycopene and many others (Lenucci et al., 2006).
The fine roots that perform most of the uptake process are
symbiotically associated with fungi which improve nutrient
Lycopene, in contrast to other carotenoids which
uptake, drought and frost tolerance and protect higher
are provable in a high number of different fruits and
plants against pathogens. The fungi withdraw glucose form
vegetables, is found mainly in few red varieties of fruits
plant roots and act as a significant sink for carbohydrates
and vegetables, in which it is responsible for their typical
(Kottke, 2002). As a rule the fungus is strongly or wholly
color. High concentrations of lycopene contain tomatoes
dependent on the higher plant, whereas the plant may or
and tomato products, but also water melons and pink
may not benefit (Marschner, 2002).
grapefruits, as well as carrots. Ripe tomatoes especially
have high lycopene content. The average lycopene supply
The present work aims to examine how conventional
for human consumption in Germany is 1.28 mg·day-1, of
and ecological cultivation methods, and the application
which tomatoes and especially tomato products provide the
of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, affect the powerful
most important sources of lycopene (Pelz et al., 1998). In
antioxidant compounds lycopene, b-carotene and total
contrast to many other secondary plant compounds, the
phenols in greenhouse grown tomatoes.
bioavailability of lycopene does not decrease automatically
by processing, but rather can be significantly increased
Materials and methods
(Gartner et al., 1997).
tomato culture and application of mycorrhiza
Carotenoids, which include lycopene and b-carotene,
The following signs represent ecological tomato cultivation
are found in species that tend to be the most effective
in contrast to conventional cultivation: seedlings only from
naturally existing radical sequesters for oxygen (DiMascio
ecological plant production, creation of optimum crop
et al., 1989). Oxygen radicals are formed, for example, by
conditions and robust plants, longer distances between
photo-chemical reactions during light absorption and are
plants for better aeration, production grown only in the
highly reactive. They can oxidize different amino acids
ground and an exclusively use of organic fertilizers.
in proteins, nucleic acids and unsaturated fatty acids.
Franceschi et al. (1994) found in a statistical investigation,
The foliar and brown rot-tolerant tomato variety Vitella F1
in the North of Italy, that the consumption of tomatoes rich
(Fa. Nebelung, Kiepenkerl Pflanzenzüchtung) was used.
in lycopene leads directly to a decreased incidence of cancer
In Berlin, Germany, seedlings were sown in a greenhouse
in mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, large intestine,
at the end of April. Weeds were removed manually during
and rectum. In numerous epidemiological studies, a
the whole experiment period. Tomatoes were cultivated in
positive correlation was also found between uptake of
pairs of of 5 m length rows (experiment group), with three
carotenoid and lycopene and lower cancer diseases and
repetitions and 2.5 plants/m. The experiment groups were
less cardiovascular diseases (Levy et al., 1995; Khachik et
randomized in three groups with an empty space of 2 m
al., 1995; Nagasawa et al., 1995; Park et al., 1998; Jain et al.,
1999; Lavelli et al., 2000).
The plants were bound once per week or two weeks on
For some years now ecological culture practices have
an aluminum stick according to length of growth. Water
increased in many countries. With ecological farming, a
was supplied automatically through drip irrigation. In the
holistic thought stands in the foreground which connects
conventionally grown tomatoes, a complete fertilizer (N:P:
Ulrichs, Fischer, Büttner and Mewis: Comparison of lycopene, b-carotene and phenolic contents...
K:Mg 15:5:20:2) was used applying 50 g·m-2 of this fertilizer
electrostatically 61 days after sowing. Because many pests
to the crop and after 60 days a second application of the
stay on the undersides of the leaves the diatomaceous
same amount. The ecological grown tomato plants were
compound was applied electrostatically. This method
fertilized with 3 L compost/m² at the same time. Harvest
employs electrostatic forces of attraction that place a
occurred 10-13 weeks after plantation.
surface charge on the spray particles which increases
spray deposition on plant surfaces (Law, 2001). Through
The content of plant-available nitrogen was not measured
this, a steady covering of the leaf upper and underside was
with the standard soil analysis because it could change
achieved. One day after application of DE, dust was washed
rapidly and these compounds are barely stored in soil,
from the leaves by the greenhouse sprinkler system to
instead they leached quite quickly. Due to the high N
minimize reduction of photosynthetic rate (further details
demand of tomato crops during their vegetation cycle,
can be found at Ulrich et al., 2008). After that, nettle broth
they had to be post-fertilized at the beginning of the
was applied weekly with a hand spray bottle.
The big nettle (Urtica dioica L.) contains high amounts of
For the mycorrhizal trials, tomato seeds were sterilized
iron and other mineral substances, flavonoids, carotenoids,
and were sown in sterile Vermiculite (particles of 3-8 mm;
vitamins A and C, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen (of
Fa. Kakteen Schwarz) for germination. The seedlings were
it 40% of ammonium nitrogen which is quickly plant-
transplanted in 1.5 L pots in 1:1 sand:vermiculite mixture.
available) and, most importantly, silicic acid which
They were then inoculated with an arbuscular mycorrhizal
improves cell wall defenses. For the production of the nettle
fungus (AMF) (Glomus sp. spores on expanded clay, Fa.
broth 1 kg of fresh nettle herb was cut in small pieces in 10 L
Amykor) and transplanted into sterilized substrate in a
of water, was brought for 5 min to cooking and 24 h allowed
greenhouse incorporating 10 g expanded clay near the
to draw. Before applying, broth was cleaned by a sieve.
roots of each plant. The control plants received the same
amount of expanded clay, however without inoculum. The
The monitoring of the efficacy of pest control methods
plants were kept at 25/18°C day/night temperatures and
occurred through the application of yellow plastic boards.
70% relative humidity.
These were hung throughout the crop during the whole
experiment period at a distance of 1 m and the number of
To examine the effects of mycorrhization, five plants were
caught adult T. vaporariorum evaluated weekly.
harvested for every cultivation method with five repetitions
per plant, six weeks after transplanting in the greenhouse,
and root weights were obtained. The AMF was evaluated
Before transplanting of seedlings, three soil samples from
by staining 1 g of root mass, according to Phillips and
the upper 20 cm were taken in three repetitions for every
Hayman (1970), and evaluated as described by Giovannetti
cultivation method (tab. 2). These soil samples were mixed
and Mosse (1980).
and analyzed for every repetition separately according
to standard procedures for nutrients, conductivity and
In the conventionally cultivated tomatoes, control of
the white fly Trialeurodes vaporariorum Westwood was
performed through the application of Applaud® (tab. 1).
Tomatoes were harvested 110 days after planting. For every
In the ecological grown tomatoes, diatomaceous earth
repetition, 10 ripe tomatoes were harvested at random.
(DE) Fossil Shield® 90.0s (1 g·m-2 leaf surface) was applied
The tomatoes were cut in small pieces immediately after
taBle 1. Plant protection methods used in tomato crops.
Yel ow boards, Applaud® (250 g·L-1 buprofezin)
One application at 0.27 L·ha-1, 61 days after sowing with the first incidence of white fly.
Teldor (500 g·kg-1 fenhexamid) once, 68 days after sowing.
Yel ow boards, additional weekly applications with nettle broth, starting from eight weeks after sowing.
61 days after sowing electrostatic application of diatomaceous earth Fossil Shield® 90.0s.
Agron. Colomb. 26(1) 2008
taBle 2. Soil analysis before the start of the experiment.
total N (%)
7.4 ± 0.4
0.30 ± 0.2
0.164 ± 0.06
51.6 ± 5.2
88.0 ± 8.0
6.8 ± 0.3
0.25 ± 0.2
0.150 ± 0.05
75.5 ± 4.9
74.5 ± 6.4
harvest, homogenized and filtered. The filtrate was kept at
lower when ecological culture practices were used (tab.
-70°C for the further analysis.
4). On the contrary, AMF application could increase
lycopene contents of tomato fruits significantly under
To analyze carotenoids, 15 g of the filtrate were homogenized
conventional and ecological cultivation methods, while
in 150 mL hexane acetone mixture (6:4) and afterwards
b-carotene content was increased by AMF significantly
supplied with 0.1 g MgCO3. Then the acetone was removed in ecologically cultivated tomatoes compared to those
by washing fivetimes with a saturated NaCl solution. The
without mycorrhizal inoculum. Total phenolics increased
rest of the hexane solution was filtered at 0.45 ?m and
in ecological cultivated tomates with AMF application
analyzed by high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).
The solvent was an acetonitril-methanol mixture (3:1), the
HPLC equipment was from Fa. Dionex.
Starting from the second cultivation week, adult T.
vaporariorum were found on the yellow traps (fig. 1). The
The total phenol contents were determined with Folin-
population increased in both cultivation treatments up to
Ciocalteau reagent (Fa. Merck). In the very alkaline
the 8th week. The application of Applaud® or Fossil Shield®
environment, the total polyphenol contents are transformed
90.0s reduced T. vaporariorum population clearly. In the
by Folin-Ciocalteau reagent into a blue colour, whose
conventional cultivation, after the Applaud® application
concentration could be measured photo-metrically and
in the 8th week, a slow population increase up to week 13
calculated using straight line calibration as described by
was observed. Compared to this curve, the population
Singleton and Rossi (1988).
increase after the DE treatment was lower in the ecological
cultivation due to the weekly application of nettle broth.
The mean comparison was performed for the fruit content
Beside the white fly other pests, such as green peach aphid
analyses according to a variance analysis of Tukeys HSD-
(Myzus persicae) and black bean aphid (Aphis fabae), were
test with a confidence level of 5%.
still found (in low population strength).
Six weeks after myccorhizal inoculation no differences
were found between the control and the AMF application
The higher root mass of AMF plants (tab. 3 ) is in agreement
in shoot weight; however, significant differences in the
with Taiz and Zeiger (2006) that root weight increases
root mass were found (tab. 3). An AMF colonization of
with the application of fungal material, which is unlikely
the roots could be observed under light microscope, where
to exceed 10% of the root weight. Additionally, the better
intercellular hyphae as well as arbuscules predominated.
exploitation of the soil for inorganic nutrients and water
Between organically and conventionally cultivated
taBle 4. Fruit substances related to fresh weight for conventionally
tomatoes, no difference in lycopene and b-carotene
and ecologically cultivated tomatoes, with and without mycorrhiza
contents were found, but total phenolic contents were
-carotene total phenolic content
taBle 3. Shoot and root fresh weight of tomatoes with and without
mycorrhiza treatment, harvested six weeks after planting.
Shoot weight (g)
Conventional + AMF
Root weight (g)
Ecological + AMF
*Means between the two culture systems (same line) fol owed by different letters are significantly
*Means of plant substances between the different cropping systems (same column) fol owed
different at P ? 0.05 using Tukey’s HSD-Test.
by different letters are significantly different at P ? 0.05 using Tukey’s HSD-Test.
Ulrichs, Fischer, Büttner and Mewis: Comparison of lycopene, b-carotene and phenolic contents...
FiguRe 1. Development of the white fly Trialeurodes vaporariorum over the whole experi-
ment time in conventionally and ecologically cultivated tomatoes as well as plant protection
with insecticides. Application of FS = Fossil Shield 90.0s; App.= Applaud (Buprofezin);
Bs = Nettle broth.
(Schopfer and Brennicke, 2006) and the higher transport
ecological cultivated soil is correlated positively with the
rates of assimilates from the aerial plant parts towards the
production of secondary plant metabolites, such as phenols
roots (Mengel and Kirkby, 2001) in mycorrhizal infected
(Norbaek et al., 2003).
plants could have played a role in enhancing root weight
of these treatments. Also Manjarrez-Martínez et al. (1999)
Since Fanasca et al. (2006) described that a high proportion
found higher root volume in chili plants inoculated with
of K in the nutrient solution increased quality attributes
Glomus spp. than in those without (control) or with
such as lycopene content, this may have played a role
vermicompost, which they considered as caused by a direct
in our experiment because ecological soil had lower K
effect of the mycorrhiza whereas increased assimilation
content than the conventionally one and this could have
of nutrients could not be exclusively attributed to the
led to the fact that the ecological cultivated tomatoes did
mycorrhizal hyphae but also to enhanced root growth
not increase lycopene content. Also no differences were
of the host (Marschner and Dell, 1994), resulting in a
found between conventionally and ecologically cultivated
higher export of nutrients and water to the aerial part.
tomatoes in b-carotene content, which are supposed to be
Mycorrhized tomato plants did not produce higher shoot
observed because lycopene is one of the precursors of b-
mass, contrary to findings of Al-Karaki (2000).
carotene synthesis formed through cyclization of lycopene
The proved lycopene content amounted only approximately
one third those found by Holdon et al. (1999) for tomato
In general, ecological treatments with AMF-application
fruits; however, it is known that the content can strongly
increased carotenoid and total phenolic contents, while
vary according to the variety (López et al., 2001, Toor et
myccorhizal inoculation also increased lycopene content
al., 2005). In general, the study showed that powerful
in conventionally cultivated tomatoes. A stimulation of
antioxidant compounds such as lycopene and b-carotene
the carotenoid metabolism in arbuscular mycorrhizal
were not reduced by organic culture practices. Although
roots was already described by Fester et al. (2002). The
limited to only a few rigorous controlled studies (Lester,
enhancement of water and soil nutrient uptake through
2006), the literature supports the popular belief that organic
AMF inoculation can enhance photosynthetic performance
fertilizer is superior to conventional synthetic fertilization
(Schopfer and Brennicke, 2006), which in turn triggers an
in achieving more nutritious fruits or vegetables (Asami
increase in synthesis of carotenoid pigments. Carotenoids,
et al., 2003). This hypothesis could not be confirmed in
which serve as accessory pigments in photosynthesis and
this experiment, especially since total phenolic content
also as photoprotective agents, are isoprenoid (terpenoid)
decreased in the ecological cultivated tomatoes. Nor was
compounds, which originate in the primary carbon
it confirmed that the lower nitrogen concentration in the
metabolism (Taiz and Zeiger, 2006).
Agron. Colomb. 26(1) 2008
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