Tomato plant yield raised by 60 per cent

A hybrid tomato plant that gives a bumper crop of sweeter tomatoes has been created by scientists, by cross-breeding from two parent plants.

The hybrid produces about 60 per cent more tomatoes than the average tomato plant, and the sugar content of the fruit is also higher than normal, the scientists said. It carries a mutation in a single gene that controls the timing of flower formation.

The discovery could be applied to other valuable food crops such as potatoes, peppers and aubergines, the geneticists hope. The crop-boosting mutation is seen as a potentially valuable tool to increase global food production in the coming decades.

The scientists discovered the critical role of the florigen gene, which promotes flowering, by crossbreeding a collection of 5,000 tomato plants that had been deliberately mutated, each in a different gene. The researchers found that plants carrying one normal and one mutated florigen gene showed remarkable "hybrid vigour", with a significant boost in yield and sweetness.

Zach Lippman of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York, who was part of the research team, said the hybrid had just the right balance of the florigen protein to account for the extraordinary 60 per cent boost in tomato production.

"It's the Goldilocks concept. What we find is that to maximise yield, you can't have too much or too little florigen. A mutation in one copy of the gene results in the exact dose of florigen required to cause heterosis [hybrid vigour]," Dr Lippman said.

"Mutant crops are usually thrown away because of the notion that mutations would have negative effects on growth. 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," Dr Lippman added. "It is possible that farmers could achieve the same high yields as commercial hybrids by using this one gene, and would be able to grow fewer plants.

"Alternatively, farmers could achieve even greater yields than is currently possible, and have higher sugar content – which is a second major component of tomato yield.

"We are hoping to test the concept of "mutant hybrids" in other crops to see if yield can be manipulated in a similar way as we have shown in tomatoes. Crops that immediately come to mind are corn, rice, and soybean, among others," he said.

"It's hard to say now whether our discovery will impact food production and food security, but I think the point to be made is that there is untapped raw genetic material that could be exploited to achieve higher yields, not only in tomatoes, but in other crops."

The research is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there