Biotech Updates

Scientists Find Way to Develop Tomato Varieties with Taste of Heirloom Counterparts

July 6, 2012

A group of scientists have come up with the findings on how to make tomatoes taste more like their heirloom counterparts. Some traits and qualities of heirloom tomatoes are valued in the market because of their color, flavor characteristics and nutritional content.

According to Ann Powell, a biochemist in University of California Davis' (UC Davis) Department of Plant Sciences and one of the lead authors of the study, the information about the gene responsible for the trait in wild and traditional varieties provides a strategy to recapture quality characteristics that had been unknowingly bred out of modern cultivated tomatoes.

With the aide of the collection of mutant and wild species of tomatoes at UC Davis which were acquired all over the world by the university's late professor Charles Rick since 1950s, the researchers particularly got interested in tomatoes they observed in the field that were unusually dark green before they ripened.

Scientists discovered that these dark green tomatoes naturally express GLK2, a transcription factor that control the development of chloroplasts. These tomatoes then produced ripe fruit with increased levels of sugars or soluble solids, important for processing tomatoes, as well as higher levels of the health-promoting compound lycopene.

According to Jim Giovannoni, a USDA plant molecular biologist with the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, understanding the genes responsible for important characteristics which are naturally present in the wild crops facilitates the challenging process of breeding crops that meet the needs of all components of the food-supply chain.

View the University of California Davis news release at