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Israel: Researchers develop more nutritious and colourful potatoes
If you’re thinking, “Who needs violet tomatoes?” you should know that red-violet and yellow betalain pigments contain healthful antioxidant properties. They’re also the basis for natural food dyes for products such as strawberry yogurt.
Antioxidant activity is 60 percent higher in betalain-producing tomatoes than in average ones, said Prof. Asaph Aharoni of Weizmann’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, who teamed up with Dr. Guy Polturak for the pigment research.
“Our findings may in the future be used to fortify a wide variety of crops with betalains in order to increase their nutritional value,” he said.
Betalain pigments also protect plants against gray mold, which annually causes crop losses worth billions of dollars. The Weizmann study showed that resistance to gray mold rose by 90 percent in plants engineered to make betalains.
The research team included Noam Grossman, Yonghui Dong, Margarita Pliner, and Ilana Rogachev of Weizmann’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department and Maggie Levy, David Vela-Corcia and Adi Nudel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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