Gene editing could boost tomato yields by speeding fruit ripening

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Using a simple and powerful genetic method to tweak genes native to two popular varieties of tomato plants, a team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has devised a rapid method to make them flower and produce ripe fruit more than 2 weeks faster than commercial breeders are currently able to do.

This means more plantings per growing season and thus higher yield. In this case, it also means that the plant can be grown in latitudes more northerly than currently possible – an important attribute as the earth’s climate warms.

“Our work is a compelling demonstration of the power of gene editing – CRISPR technology – to rapidly improve yield traits in crop breeding,” says CSHL Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, who led the research. Applications can go far beyond the tomato family, he says, to include many major food crops like maize, soybean, and wheat that so much of the world depends upon.

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More information: Variation in the flowering gene SELF PRUNING 5G promotes day-neutrality and early yield in tomato, Nature Geneticsnature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/ng.3733

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