Priming of defence is a strategy employed by plants exposed to stress to enhance resistance against future stress episodes with minimal associated costs on growth. Here, we test the hypothesis that application of priming agents to seeds can result in plants with primed defences.
We measured resistance to arthropod herbivores and disease in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants grown from seed treated with jasmonic acid (JA) and/or beta-aminobutryric acid (BABA).
Plants grown from JA-treated seed showed increased resistance against herbivory by spider mites, caterpillars and aphids, and against the necrotrophic fungal pathogen, Botrytis cinerea. BABA seed treatment provided primed defence against powdery mildew disease caused by the biotrophic fungal pathogen, Oidium neolycopersici. Priming responses were long-lasting, with significant increases in resistance sustained in plants grown from treated seed for at least eight weeks, and were associated with enhanced defence gene expression during pathogen attack. There was no significant antagonism between different forms of defence in plants grown from seeds treated with a combination of JA and BABA.
Long-term defence priming by seed treatments was not accompanied by reductions in growth, and may therefore be suitable for commercial exploitation.