The influence of the holoparasite branched broomrape on the vegetative growth, leaf chlorophyll content, photosynthetic rate, and chlorophyll fluorescence of tomato was studied over two growing seasons on plants grown in a commercial greenhouse. The presence of the parasite strongly reduced the aerial biomass by acting as a competing sink for assimilate, but more importantly, by compromising the efficiency of carbon assimilation via a reduction in leaf chlorophyll content and photosynthetic rate. The chlorophyll fluorescence parameters F0, Fm, Fv, and Fv/Fm were all altered in parasitized plants, indicating that branched broomrape–infected plants are more susceptible to photoinhibition. The degree of damage to the host was not dependent on either the number or the biomass of parasitic plants per host plant. We suggest that the ability to maintain a high photosynthetic rate, leaf chlorophyll content, or both and the ability to minimize photoinhibition can be developed as indirect assays for improved tolerance to branched broomrape.
Nomenclature: Branched broomrape, Orobanche ramosa L. ORARM; tomato, Solanum lycopersicum L. ‘Ikram’.