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Crop Biotech Update

Disease Resistant Tomatoes Fight Lethal Pests

April 10, 2013

Tomato lines that are resistant against thrips and the deadly virus it carries have been developed at Cornell University by breeder Martha Mutschler-Chu. Through molecular breeding, the tomato lines were developed to resist thrips by breeding into the cultivated tomato, insect resistant genes discovered in a wild tomato from Peru. Mutschler-Chu found that the resistance gene is mediated by droplets of sugar esters called acylsugars that are produced and exuded from hairs that cover the plants. The acylsugars deter the insects from laying eggs on the plants.

Thrips are also carriers of the deadly virus disease called tomato spotted wilt virus. One or both of the two natural genes known to resist the virus was bred into the insect resistant lines.

"If some thrips get through with the virus, the virus resistance genes are there to mop it up," Mutschler-Chu said. The results obtained in this study are the foundation of a new collaboration that will test tomato lines in different regions so as to come up with a more durable resistance against the pest and the virus.

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