Preharvest nitrogen application affects quality and antioxidant status of two tomato cultivars

ABSTRACT Intensive horticultural crop production usually involves challenges from excessive application of fertilizer, mainly nitrogen (N). The effect of N fertilizer on the fruit quality and antioxidant status of two cherry tomato cultivars (Caballero and Victoria) under greenhouse conditions was performed. Nitrogen treatments were applied ranging from conditions comprising deficiency to toxicity (0, 15, 30, 45 and 60 mmol∙L-1). Yield, weight, diameter, fruit quality, phenols, flavonoids, lycopene, ascorbic acid and antioxidant capacity were measured at physiological maturity of the fresh tomato fruits. N treatment with 30 mmol∙L-1 produced the highest yield, fruit weight, firmness and diameter in both cultivars. However, increasing N from 30 to 60 mmol∙L-1 increased the concentration of phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidant capacity by 50, 125 and 33% in ‘Caballero’ tomatoes and by 60, 95 and 24% in ‘Victoria’ tomatoes, respectively. Lycopene content increased with increasing N doses (45 and 60 mmol∙L-1) for ‘Caballero’ tomatoes, while vitamin C decreased as N concentration increased, suggesting that ascorbic acid acts by protecting against oxidative stress in tomato. The present work shows how N fertilization considerably influences yield and quality of tomatoes, as well as nutritional and healthy values.