U.K.: Giant tomato competition calls in DNA experts to deter cheats
The winning fruit of the competition, which is taking place as part of a London horticultural event, must be of the Gigantomo variety, but concerns have been raised that entrants might try to fool judges with rogue giant tomato varieties to win the cash prizes.
A £1,000 (US$1,538) prize is up for grabs for the winner, and another £5,000 (US$7,690) could be scooped up if the heaviest tomato beats the current record which stands at 7lbs 12oz (3.5kg).
To allay the concerns, organizers have called in tomato cultivar experts from Naktuinbouw Variety Testing laboratory in Roelofarendsveen in the Netherlands to ensure the winning tomato has the right pedigree.
Highly sensitive variety tracer technology will be used to confirm the successful tomato is true to the Gigantomo variety and a worthy winner.
"We get a wide range of requests for DNA fingerprinting from straightforward identification issues to patent breeders’ rights disputes, but this has to be one of the most unusual challenges we have received so far," says molecular biologist Hedwich Teunissen.
"We are pleased to help solve Harrogate Flower Show’s problem and confirm results of the new championship later this month.
"The testing has also presented a good opportunity to include a giant tomato variety in the research we are currently conducting in developing our new identification tool using the complete DNA sequence for tomato cultivars."
The new Gigantomo class was launched in January and the final weigh-in will take place on Sept. 18.
"Giant vegetable growing is great fun and tremendously popular with our visitors, but it also has a serious side, especially with such a big prize at stake," says show director Nick Smith.
"When experienced growers contacted us to express concern about making sure that the new class for Gigantomo would feature only specimens from that variety, we set out to find a way of being certain as we possible can that the winner has the right pedigree.
"We are delighted to be working with scientists at Naktuinbouw and we hope that growers will be reassured by the fact that we have taken their concerns seriously enough to carry out such detailed analysis of the winning entry."