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Soil management type differentially modulates the metabolomic profile of olive xylem sap

Sofo, Adriano, Fausto, Catia, Mininni, Alba N., Dichio, Bartolomeo, Lucini, Luigi
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2019 v.139 pp. 707-714
Olea europaea, agroecosystems, alkaloids, chemical defenses, fertigation, high performance liquid chromatography, human health, metabolism, metabolites, metabolome, mineral fertilizers, no-tillage, olives, orchards, physiological state, plant hormones, pruning, retinoids, sap, shoots, signal transduction, spectrometers, sterols, sustainable agriculture, trees, ultra-performance liquid chromatography, weeds, xylem, Italy
In conventional olive growing, frequent soil tillage strongly reduces the complexity and diversity of the agro-ecosystem. Here, a metabolomic analysis was carried out on the xylem sap (XS) of olive plants (Olea europaea L.) from a grove located in Southern Italy (Basilicata region). The orchard has been divided in two plots that have been managed for 18 years with two different systems: a) ‘sustainable management’ (Smng), with no-tillage, fertigation and internal C-inputs (spontaneous weeds and pruning residues), and b) an adjacent rainfed ‘conventional management’ (Cmng), that included soil tillage and mineral fertilization. The XS was extracted from olive shoots in two sampling times (ST1: May; ST2: October) using a Sholander pressure chamber, and its metabolome analyzed by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled to a hybrid quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer (QTOF-MS). The discriminating compounds were 94 at ST1 and 119 at ST2, and 35 of them were in common between the two sampling times. The majority of the discriminating metabolites (73 on 94 at ST1, and 109 on 119 at ST2) were found at higher concentration in the XS of Smng plants, compared to that of Cmng ones. Most of the discriminating metabolites found in XS (about 80%, both at ST1 and ST2) were involved in plant secondary metabolism, mainly for plant chemical defense, growth regulation and signal transduction. The most prevailing class of compounds included terpenoids, phytohormones, alkaloids, sterols/steroids, retinols/retinoids, tocopherols and carotenoids. For the first time, we have demonstrated that the XS of a tree crop significantly responds to a shift of soil management. Generally, the plants of the Smng plot showed an up-regulated secondary metabolism. The results of our study encourage the use of a set of sustainable agricultural practices in a productive orchard, in order to enhance plant physiological status, increase yield quantity/quality, safeguard the environment and ameliorate human health.