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Scientists look to improve taste of tomatoes

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Scientists from the University of Florida, which developed the Tasti-Lee tomato variety, are working to identify traits which they hope will provide an improved taste for consumers.

“Modern tomato cultivars typically have poor flavour as compared to heirloom (older) varieties, but breeding for tomato flavour is difficult due to the complexity of the flavour trait,” Denise Tieman, a research assistant professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, told reporters.

After DNA sequencing some 400 varieties, the team has identified the parts of the tomato chromosome which correlate to higher levels of different compounds which are related to flavour, which itself is determined by interactions between sugars, acids and aroma volatiles. The findings should allow breeders to replace the appropriate genetic material in new varieties using traditional techniques.

“Anyone who knows molecular breeding can use this information to breed for better flavour,” explained Tieman. “We are using it to add flavour in some Florida tomato varieties. Several seed companies have expressed interest in this research.”

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