Jerusalem, April 6, 2010 -- Spectacularly increased yields and improved taste have been achieved with hybrid tomato plants by researchers at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), New York.
The researchers have discovered the yield-boosting power of a single gene, which controls when plants make flowers and that works in different varieties of tomato and, crucially, across a range of environmental conditions. The discovery was patented by Yissum, the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University, which is seeking potential partners for further development and commercialization.
"This discovery has tremendous potential to transform both the billion-dollar tomato industry, as well as agricultural practices designed to get the most yield from other flowering crops," says CSHL's Dr. Zach Lippman, one of the three authors of the study, which appears in the magazine Nature Genetics online . The study is co-authored by Dr. Uri Krieger and Prof. Dani Zamir of the Hebrew University.
The team made the discovery while hunting for genes that boost hybrid vigor, a revolutionary breeding principle that spurred the production of outstanding hybrid crops like corn and rice a century ago. Hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, is the phenomenon by which intercrossing two varieties of plants produces more vigorous hybrid offspring with higher yields.
First observed by Charles Darwin in 1876, heterosis was rediscovered by CSHL corn geneticist George Shull 30 years later, but how heterosis works has remained a mystery.
Plants carry two copies of each gene, and Shull's studies suggested that harmful, vigor-killing mutations that accumulate naturally in every generation are exposed by inbreeding, but hidden by crossbreeding. But there is still no consensus as to what causes heterosis. A theory for heterosis, supported by this new Hebrew Univer
|Contact: Jerry Barach|
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem