Stable Soil Moisture Alleviates Water Stress and Improves Morphogenesis of Tomato Seedlings

Ge Li, Huaiyu Long, Renlian Zhang, Patrick J. Drohan, Aiguo Xu, Li Niu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Previous studies on soil water–plant relations have mostly focused on the soil water content (SWC), while the effect of soil moisture stability on plant growth has received surprisingly little attention. Potted tomato seedlings were used to examine the effect of stable soil moisture (SM) and fluctuating soil moisture (FM) on plant growth, development, and water use efficiency (WUE) in this study. The results showed that (i) soil moisture stability significantly affected the growth and development, photosynthetic characteristics, morphological traits, root morphology, and water physiological characteristics of seedling tomatoes, with SM being more conducive for most of these indices. (ii) SM improved the leaf WUE by reducing the content of abscisic acid in plants, regulating plant osmotic substances, maintaining a high gas exchange rate, and promoting plant morphology. (iii) SM could avoid water stress on tomato seedlings; even if the SWC of SM was equal to or lower than the SWC of FM, water stress would not occur under SM, whereas it would occur under FM. Overall, compared with FM, SM promoted beneficial plant morphology, maintained a high gas exchange rate, and did not induce water stress for tomato seedlings—ultimately improving WUE. This effect was more effective under low-SWC conditions than under high-SWC conditions. These findings provide a new perspective and theoretical basis for soil water–plant relations and indicate that SM has great potential in promoting plant growth and improving WUE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number391
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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