Urban agriculture gospel: Scientists genetically engineer tomatoes with ‘shrubs’

If you want your tomato plant to be a little more compact, you’re lucky to have read this article, according tomedia. A team of scientists, led by Cold Spring Harbor professor and HHMI researcher Zach Lippman, is understood to have developed a genetically engineered tomato that is more like a bush than a vine.

Urban agriculture gospel: Scientists genetically engineer tomatoes with 'shrubs'

Urban agriculture has been a concern in recent years because it provides food for urban dwellers while reducing the environmental costs of planting and transporting them. While growing crops in warehouses or containers has its own appeal, urban real estate is often very expensive compared to traditional farmland, so plants take up a premium.

To minimize this problem, Lippman’s team is working on a genetically modified crop that is more compact than a traditional crop, while maintaining the quality the crop should have — the first crop they produced was “urban agricultural tomatoes.”

Unlike the regular tomato variety, the improved variety transforms the grape variety into a cherry tomato fruit that is more like a bush. Not only do they grow more compactly, but they can harvest ripe fruit scans in 40 days, which is another advantage of urban agriculture.

The new tomato is bred by changing two genes that control the rate of reproductive growth and plant size, as well as a third gene that controls stem length. By controlling the SELF PRUNING (SP) and SP5G genes, the team was able to make the plant grow faster and produce faster results, while the gene that controls stem length, SIER, is able to reduce the stem by binding to two other mutations in the flowering gene.

Lippman points out that the technology could also be applied to other fruits, such as kiwis.

The study was published in Nature Biotechnology.

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