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Revolutionizing harvest - Scientists engineer robust fresh tomatoes
USAgNet - 09/27/2023

Scientists led by Prof. LI Chuanyou from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have modified fresh tomatoes to better withstand the rigors of mechanical harvesting. This innovation is thanks to a successful application of a genetic mutation called fs8.1, originally observed sixty years ago.

This mutation resulted in tomatoes with a blockier shape and increased stress tolerance, making them suitable for machine harvesting. What makes this breakthrough significant is that it’s the first time the fs8.1 mutation has been applied to fresh tomatoes. Prior to this, the mutation was only identified in processing tomatoes, which often had to compromise on flavor and nutrition for enhanced firmness.

The scientists meticulously cloned and characterized the fs8.1 mutation, discovering that it altered the rate of cell proliferation in different parts of the tomato. This results in an elongated shape, as it promotes more cell growth in the ovary wall than in the columella. Importantly, the introduction of this mutation doesn’t affect the ripening process, thus maintaining the taste, color, and nutritional quality of the tomatoes.

These fortified tomatoes possess increased compression resistance, making them less prone to damage during harvesting, transportation, and storage. Remarkably, they retain their essential quality parameters like soluble solid content, sugar, acid, and lycopene levels.

This innovation offers a golden opportunity for the agricultural sector. It means that fresh market tomatoes can now enjoy the benefits of mechanical harvesting without the usual trade-off in quality. The project, funded by the National Key R&D Program of China and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, marks a substantial step towards efficient and sustainable agricultural practices.

The incorporation of the fs8.1 mutation opens doors for redesigning fresh market tomatoes, aligning with the increasing demand for food quality and production efficiency. This discovery is not just a win for the scientists but also for farmers and consumers who are at the heart of agricultural advancement.

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