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Here comes the super tomato

Nature Genetics magazine published a study carried out by some researchers from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) that describes a technique for doubling the quantity of tomatoes produced by adjusting the balance between blossoming and leaf production. In the future, this technique might also be used on other crops such as soy.

"Traditionally, growers tried to increase quantities by taking advantage of genetic variants, but that could only do so much," explained study coordinator Zachary Lippman.

Since almost one in 8 people do not eat properly, Lippman is convinced that new ways of producing more food are needed urgently. In order to reach this objective, the research group identified a series of genetic mutations that modify the architecture of plants.

In particular, the balance between florigens (hormones that promote blossoming and thus fruit production) and anti-florigens (hormones that favour leaf production) is regulated.

Preliminary studies carried out by Lippman and some Israeli colleagues demonstrated that a mutation of florigens can increase yields. This in turn suggests that the balance of the hormones in tomato plants may not yet be optimal, despite centuries of cultivation with natural genetic variations.

CSHL scientists identified a series of genetic variations that can increase tomato production. In the photo, left to right: the average yield of a standard industry tomato plant. The following three samples were produced with modified plants. 

"We discovered that different combinations increase the quantities of tomatoes that are usually eaten fresh, such as cherry tomatoes." This will enable growers to customise the genetic variations for specific varieties.

This kit of "altered" genes will enable growers to regulate yields depending on weather and market conditions.

The same results can be applied to other crops, such as rapeseed and sunflower. CSHL researchers are eager to apply this technique to the production of soy.

The work was financed by the European Research Council-Advanced (ERC), Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), Binational Agricultural and Research Fund (BARD) (BARD) and National Science Foundation (NSF) Plant Genome Research Program.
The study entitled "Optimization of crop productivity in tomato using induced mutations in the florigen pathway" can be found online at http://www.nature.com/ng/index.html  The authors of the study are: Soon Ju Park, Ke Jiang, Lior Tal, Yoav Yichie, Oron Gar, Dani Zamir, Yuval Eshed, Zachary Lippman.

Source: ansa.it / cshl.org

Publication date: 11/5/2014


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