Jan 25, 2014

The Discovery Files:Tomato Tweak

Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have found a way to allow commercial tomato growers to coax their plants into producing more fruit without sacrificing the unique and necessary bushy shape of the plants.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Yield--for tomatoes.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

1908: New York State's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Botanist George Shull (shool), discovers that cross-breeding genetically distinct plants produces offspring more robust than either inbred parent. A phenomenon called 'hybrid vigor,' that's been used to improve agricultural productivity for over a century--even though scientists couldn't agree on exactly how or why it worked.

Fast-forward to Cold Spring Harbor today, where researchers have found a way to coax tomato plants into producing more fruit, while still keeping a compact, bushy plant shape that allows mechanical harvesters to reap the crop.

Previously, the team had ID'ed a rare example of hybrid vigor involving a change in the gene that makes florigen, a hormone in charge of flowering and flower production. Now, they've found that the genetic change lowers the amount of florigen in tomato plants causing the plants to postpone the moment when they stop producing flowers. Result: Super-productive plants!

The researchers predict it may be possible to tweak florigen levels to get even higher yields--not just in tomatoes, but in other flowering plants as well.

The next time you enjoy a B.L.T.[1], think of the researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, a group of 'budding geniuses.'

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.


Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato the name of a sandwich that contains these foods.

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