Bacterial wilt resistance in tomato associated with tolerance of vascular tissues to Pseudomonas solanacearum.
High populations of P. solanacearum were detected in some, but not all stems of bacterial wilt resistant (CRA 66, Hawaii 7996 and Caraïbo) and susceptible (Floradel) tomatoes. Latent infection, i.e. spread of P. solanacearum into xylem vessels, was confirmed in Caraïbo, Hawaii 7996 and CRA 66 (the resistant parent of Caraïbo). None of the plants within the resistant cultivars wilted and those cultivars were characterized by tolerance of the vascular tissues to high bacterial densities. In contrast, plants of cultivar Floradel showed consistent symptoms and wilted rapidly, with higher mean bacterial density than resistant cultivars. Bacterial wilt resistance was not associated with resistance to bacterial root invasion but with the capability of the plant to limit P. solanacearum colonization in the stem. The extent of bacterial colonization is proposed as a criterion to quantify tolerance, complementary to absence of external wilt symptoms used in breeding programmes for resistance.