Researchers have successfully used the CRISPR gene editing technique to alter certain genes that lead to undesirable results when two variants of tomatoes are cross bred.
“We really are tapping into basic knowledge and applying it to agriculture,” Zachary Lippman, the lead author of the study from Cold Spring Habor Laboratory in New York, said.
Years of breeding has resulted in two variants of tomatoes with unique traits. One type of tomato has been bred to have what is called a stem (a leaf-like structure on top of the fruit). The other variant lacks this feature and is preferred by farmers who use mechanical harvesters.
Geneticists have revealed that crossbreeding these two variants of tomatoes leads to a plant with lots of branches and flowers but fewer fruits. Lippman and his colleagues identified the particular genes responsible for this feature and altered them using CRISPR-Cas9 editing. The researchers did not only succeed in bringing the problematic genes under control but also created tomato plants with high yields. This study appeared in the journal Cell.