By michael pollitt Agricultural editor
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Three Norfolk scientists have played a groundbreaking role in efforts to breed tastier and sweeter tomatoes.
They were part of an international team of 300 researchers from 14 countries, which has successfully sequenced the genome of the domesticated tomato.
Dr Tamas Dalmay and Dr Irina Mohorianu, of the University of East Anglia, and Prof Jane Rogers, of the Genome Analysis Centre on Norwich Research Park, have charted the make-up of the domesticated tomato, which is reported in today’s international scientific journal, Nature.
This will help plant breeders produce tomatoes with beneficial health traits including higher concentrations of nutrients. It could also enable tomatoes to withstand pests, diseases and even droughts, which have limited yields.
Dr Dalmay, of the School of Biological Sciences, said: “This was a really exciting project to be involved in. This is a good example how the tomato genome will enable new discoveries.”
Prof Jane Rogers, who worked on the sequence while at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, said: “The UK team made important contributions with physical maps, clone-based sequencing of chromosome 4 and sharing knowledge through training provision for other international partners.”
With the market for tomatoes worth an estimated £625m in the UK alone, the findings could also benefit other crops in the Solanaceea family like potatoes, peppers and aubergines. Norfolk is also home to the country’s largest greenhouse growing tomatoes, which includes 47 acres of glass on the site of the Wissington beet sugar factory complex, near Downham Market.
Dr Mohorianu, of the School of Computing Sciences, said: “The analysis of this large number of genes was facilitated by the develop-ment of cutting edge computational tools that allowed both the identi-fication of key regulators and also provided a summary of the inter-actions that take place during fruit ripening.
“These results are an excellent example of the ongoing collaboration between computing scientists and biologists here at UEA.”
The UK team was led by researchers at Imperial College, London, and the University of Nottingham with scientists from the James Hutton Institute and the Natural History Museum.
MP calls for GM debate – Page 10