COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y., March 29 (UPI) — U.S. and Israeli scientists say they have identified a gene that causes hybrid tomato plants to substantially increase yield, and also increases sweetness.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Hebrew University researchers said the gene controls when the plants make flowers, works in different varieties of tomato, and crucially, across a range of environmental conditions.
“This discovery has potential to have a significant impact on both the billion-dollar tomato industry, as well as agricultural practices designed to get the most yield from other flowering crops,” said Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientist Zach Lippman, one of the three authors of the study.
By screening a “mutant library” of 5,000 different tomato varieties, the scientists said they found a mutation in one copy of a gene called SFT increases tomato fruit yield by up to 60 percent. The study suggests improved vigor in plants can result from single heterozygous mutations, an idea the researchers said has great implications for plant breeding.
“Mutant plants are usually thrown away because of the notion that mutations would have negative effects on growth,” Lippman said. “Our results indicate that breeding with hybrid mutations could prove to be a powerful new way to increase yields, not only in tomato, but all crops.”
The study is reported in the early online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.