Pathogen attack and herbivore infestation have a major impact on plant health. In a model study, these two plant health issues were simulated to study whether plant health can be monitored at greenhouse scale through the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in greenhouse atmosphere. To simulate pathogen attack and herbivore infestation, we repeatedly stroked the stems of tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) and repeatedly removed their side shoots. In addition, we studied the effect of fruit picking on the concentration of plant-emitted VOCs in greenhouse atmosphere. Analysis of air samples obtained before these treatments revealed up to 17 VOCs that are known to be released from tomato plants, of which the most dominant one was the monoterpene β-phellandrene. When plants were 7 weeks old, the concentration of this VOC was approximately 0.06 ppbv before treatment. When plants were 12 weeks old, this concentration was raised to approximately 0.14 ppbv. Stroking of the stems, removing the side shoots and fruit picking resulted in an increase in the concentrations of all mono- and most sesquiterpenes up to 60-fold, which was expected because these VOCs are well-known constituents of trichomes. The treatments did not result in substantially increased concentrations of the stress-related compounds α-copaene, methyl salicylate and (E,E)-4,8,12-trimethyl-1,3,7,11-tridecatetraene. In contrast to stroking and fruit picking, shoot removal resulted in the emission of the lipoxygenase-derived product (Z)-3-hexenol in greenhouse atmosphere expressing cell membrane degradation. The findings presented in this paper focus on the feasibility of monitoring plant health through the analysis of VOCs in greenhouse air, but findings might also be relevant for atmospheric chemistry
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