Novel roots for novel traits: identification and characterization of superior rootstocks for tomato to increase abiotic stress resistance

Soil borne stresses, such as drought, flooding or salt have huge impact on the performance of plants and negatively affect agricultural yield. As global change scenario predict an increased chance of climatic extremes to occur, crop species with higher abiotic stress resilience are required. Grafting (combining a shoot with the rootstock of another accession or species) is a method which is commonly used to combine desired root and shoot traits without the tedious process of selective breeding. However, to date only a small number of rootstocks are available for the important crop tomato and these rootstocks are specifically aimed at improving general vigour and resistance to soil pathogens.  Improvement of abiotic stress tolerance has only scarcely been tested. The overarching goal of this project is to identify novel rootstocks for tomato that improve tolerance to the environmental abiotic stresses such as drought, flooding and soil water salinity.

While we have identified new root stock species based on the grafting success and growth after grafting, we do not know yet to what extend they affect stress resilience and what root traits contribute to abiotic stress resilience. This may help to identify potentially valuable rootstocks at an earlier developmental stage.

In addition to applying specific stress treatments and detailed phenotyping, we would like to know the effects of the rootstocks on the physiology of the shoot. To this end, we will measure expression of genes in the shoot of a series of graftings by RNAseq and correlate this data with shoot phenotypes.

If you are interested and would like to have more information, please contact Heidrun Huber ( or Ivo Rieu (

Also if you would like to develop another idea within the broad contexts of abiotic stress resistance or plant grafting, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to discuss your ideas and the options with you!