Researchers from Colombia's National University's Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, led by Professor Mario Augusto Garcia, have managed to develop a selection of cherry tomato varieties that have a higher content of antioxidants, especially lycopenes - which have anti-cancer properties- and a greater amount of vitamins and minerals.
The development of these new cultivars began with a series of crosses between elite cherry tomato lines. To achieve this the researchers used was a variant of pedigree selection, called single seed offspring; from there, they selected nine lines –through seven generations– to perform an agronomic efficacy test (PEAS) before the ICA. These tests were carried out in three planting locations in the Valle del Cauca: the Agrosavia Research Center, in Palmira; the Experimental Center of UNAL Sede Palmira (CEUNP) in Candelaria, and the Hacienda Brasilia in El Cerrito.
The test helped evaluate different aspects, such as plant height, days to flowering, days to start of harvest, number, and weight of the fruits, total yield, and the fruit's organoleptic properties (which help perceive their taste, texture, smell, color or temperature). These cultivars were then compared with a commercial reference control: the Hortifresco cherry tomato, an imported material of high consumption and commercialization in Colombia.
The research was carried out in the open field with exposure to pests and diseases, and not in protected greenhouse conditions, "which might shorten the cycle compared to what would happen if we conducted the tests under controlled conditions," said Professor Carlos German Muñoz.
The most important result of this test was that some materials, such as the M19 and M40 genotypes, had the highest yields, represented in grams per tomato plant. Sometimes they yielded 38 tons per hectare in the three localities, while the commercial control yielded 23 tons per hectare.
The weight of the varieties tested falls within the commercial range since cherry tomatoes have an average weight that ranges from 10 to 25 grams per fruit.