December 10, 2018, by Rob Ounsworth

Long live the tomato

A world-first in genome sequencing and the University’s longstanding partnership with the biotechnology giant Syngenta has paved the way for a breakthrough that will transform the landscape of tomato breeding.

The tomato is one of the most valuable fruit crops in the world, with an annual global value of more than $50bn. It’s an important source of vitamins, minerals and health-promoting phytochemicals in our diet, from fresh foods such as salads, as an ingredient, and in a multitude of processed products such as pizzas and soups.

Yet some of the best-tasting varieties soften rapidly and can have a short shelf life. Breeders are working constantly to supply high-yielding, better-tasting, more nutritious and longer-lasting tomato varieties.

The discovery by Professor Graham Seymour, from the School of Biosciences, of the gene that controls much of tomato fruit softening is now allowing natural variation to be better explored to breed tomatoes that stay fresher for longer, while tasting as good.

Graham Seymour

Professor Graham Seymour’s discoveries have transformed the tomato breeding landscape

This follows Professor Seymour’s contribution to the international Tomato Genome Sequencing Project, which in 2012 made history with the sequencing of the tomato. He said: “The genome sequence has completely transformed the breeding landscape. It’s creating a step change in crop improvement and now forms the backbone of all modern plant breeding efforts with tomatoes.”

For the Professor of Plant Biotechnology in the School of Biosciences and a member of the Future Food Beacon, discovering the gene controlling fruit softening in tomatoes has been one of the highlights of a distinguished career.

A long partnership with Syngenta has been a key part of his research, and in ensuring that it has lasting impact on a global scale.

Read more about this inspirational story in Vision, the University’s research and knowledge exchange magazine.

And look out for how our research is transforming breeding of one of the world’s most valuable fruits in Discovery. For the World, a University campaign celebrating the impact of our world-class research on lives across the world.

Posted in research