Light gene boosts tomato yields by a fifth

Aug 05, 2014
The Tomato, (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) flowering, associated with a young, developing fruit. Credit: Earth100/Wikipedia

Scientists on Tuesday said they had found a gene in wild tomatoes that enables farmed tomato plants to be grown 24 hours a day under natural and artificial light, boosting yields by up to 20 percent.

Back in the 1920s, experiments showed that modern suffer potentially fatal damage to their leaves when grown under continuous light.

As a result, commercial tomatoes have to be grown under a day-night cycle in which light is limited to around 16 hours a day.

In contrast, other plant species such as peppers, lettuces and roses do not have this problem—they can be grown in continuous light all the time, which is a boon for big factory-style greenhouses.

Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands said they had trawled through the genome of a strain of wild tomato native to South America.

On Chromosome 7, they found a gene called CAB-13, which confers tolerance to continuous light.

The gene was then transferred to modern plants by traditional cross-breeding, rather than genetic engineering, and the hybrid was put to the test, they said.

Plants that were grown 24 hours a day achieved a gain in yield of up to 20 percent compared to those grown for 16 hours in greenhouse conditions, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Communications.

So far, there has been no sign of any negative impact on the tomato's taste or shelf life, said lead investigator Aaron Velez-Ramirez.

"It seems that we are just talking of more tomatoes with the same characteristics as those produced under the 16-hour photo period," he said in an email exchange with AFP.

"Some varieties of potato and petunias, which belong to the same family as tomato, are sensitive to continuous light as well. So they could benefit from finding a way to confer on them tolerance to continuous light, but I do not think that it will make economic (sense) to do so."

Many are tolerant to continuous light, but it only makes financial sense for growers to focus on high-value crops given the cost of lighting, he explained.

"From a scientific point of view, of course, it is always interesting to find why some species can cope with continuous light and some others cannot," added Velez-Ramirez.

"When answering this kind of question, we learn a lot on how plants function and how they adapt to their environment."

Explore further: Geneticists offer clues to better rice, tomato crops

Related Stories

Vermicompost beneficial for organically grown tomatoes

Nov 17, 2011

A study evaluated the effects of adding vermicompost to substrates in organically grown greenhouse tomatoes. Results showed the incorporation of vermicompost into organic substrates to be beneficial in terms of growth and ...

Tomatoes with extra vitamin C via LED lamps

May 09, 2013

(Phys.org) —Tomatoes can contain more vitamin C if they are exposed to extra light from LED lamps while growing on the plant. This has been proven by research by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture in ...

Stink bug traps may increase damage to tomato fruits

Mar 25, 2014

The invasive brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is an important pest of fruits and vegetables. To counter them, some home gardeners use pheromone-baited traps that are designed to attract, trap, and kill them. ...

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.