In what gives us high hopes for the future of the tomato, Reuters reports that scientists in the Tomato Genome Consortium have decoded the entire genome sequence of a domesticated tomato breed named Heinz 1706 that, yes, is the same breed used to make Heinz ketchup. The genome of its closest wild relative, Solanum pimpinellifolium, also was sequenced.
The final project reveals the types and relative positions of the tomato's 35,000 genes, which, researchers hope, will pinpoint exactly which genes control various tomato traits, including taste. In essence, our future selves may not have to endure watery, tasteless tomatoes ever again.
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Instead, as Nature explains, "The genome should help plant breeders to make clever crosses between variants with desirable traits. In this way, they should be able to create products that can be firm and disease-resistant without compromising on taste." More than that, "precision breeding" may not only be applied to tomatoes, but also to fruits that are part of the tomato's enormous family, including eggplants and peppers. Outside the family, understanding the genes connected to the tomato's ripening process also can benefit growers of similarly fleshy fruits like strawberries, melons and bananas.