While plants used for canned fruit and juices benefit from a mechanically harvestable bush shape, they also stop growth earlier. This means that the plant produces fewer fruit than classic or home garden varieties.
To extend yield potential, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has uncovered a genetic mechanism for hybrid vigor that could encourage these plants to flower for longer and as a result, produce more fruit.
CSHL associate professor Zach Lippman and Israeli colleagues found that a mutation in florigen, the hormone behind flowering, can dramatically increase yields in bush-shaped tomato plants.
Alongside researcher Ke Jiang, Lippmann has found that plants with this mutation produce half as much florigen, postpoing the moment when flowering ends and allowing for more fruit.
"This is because bushy tomato varieties are highly sensitive to the amount, or dosage, of the florigen hormone, which alters plant architecture – that is, how many flowers can form before growth ends. These discoveries lead to an exciting prediction: that it may be possible to tweak florigen levels to increase yields even further," Lippmann said.
The study appears online on PLoS Genetics. The research is supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the NSF Plant Genome Research Program.
Photo: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory