The effects of a newly discovered endophytic fungus, Talaromyces omanensis, on the drought tolerance of tomato is presented in this study. The fungus was obtained from a desert plant Rhazya stricta in Oman. Drought stress was induced by a 15% solution of Polyethylene glycol-6000 (PEG-6000). Several parameters were measured including pollen sterility, pollen tube length, growth, flowering, and yield characteristics, the biochemical analysis of the leaves and fruits, as well as other physiological and anatomical parameters. The results showed that T. omanensis provided multiple advantages to tomato grown under drought stress, including improved reproductive characteristics, chlorophyll fluorescence, and some anatomical characteristics such as increased phloem and cortex width and a reduction of pith autolysis that leads to hollow stem. In addition, T. omanensis significantly increased drought-stress related characteristics such as shoot dry weight, root length, the number of flowers, and fruit weight. A significantly higher concentration of gibberellic acid (GA3) was found in tomato plants treated by T. omanensis, which may enhance their drought tolerance. These results suggest that T. omanensis is a potential biological anti-stress stimulator for important horticultural crops such as tomatoes. This study is the first to report the beneficial effects of T. omanensis in alleviating drought stress in tomatoes.
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