February 15, 2011

Building A Better Tomato

    Building a better tomato - Image
USDA Economic Research Service estimates that 20% of tomatoes are lost to spoilage. USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Purdue Univ. scientists are looking to create a better tasting and more nutritious tomato that lasts longer.

Researchers are working to manipulate the amount of nitrogen-based organic compounds called polyamines that play a role in the tomato plant’s growth, flowering, fruit development, ripening and other functions. Polyamines have also been associated with the production of lycopene and other nutrients that are beneficial against certain cancers and other diseases.

By introducing a yeast gene into tomato plants, the scientists were able to increase the production of the polyamine spermadine, which resulted in more vegetative growth and extended the fruit shelf life. Fruit shriveling was also delayed by up to 3 weeks and there was a slower rate of decay caused by disease. The fruit were found to have higher levels of lycopene. Results of the research are in The Plant Journal.

Pictured: USDA-Agricultural Research Service plant physiologist Autar Mattoo (center) discusses the improved features of a genetically-modified tomato line to postdoctoral fellow Vijaya Shukla (left) and biological technician Joseph Sherren.
Photo by Steve Ausmus

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