Wild Galapagos tomato shows strong resistance to pest insects
Scientists from the Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands have found a wild tomato species from the Galapagos Islands is resistant to a wide range of pest insects.
In a release, the university said as the species was closely related to the more common cultivated tomato, it could be interbred to create new varieties with more resilience against natural pests.
Cultivated tomatoes are far more vulnerable to pests and diseases than some of their wild relatives, with much of the natural resistance lost in the process of breeding modern tomatoes.
The university clarified scientest were yet to successfully interbreed required traits from wild tomatoes to cultivated ones, but this newly discovered wild type from Ecuador was so genetically similar that it could make the job easier, particularly as its resistance was coded within a single chromosome.
"We have been busy with this research since 2010,” said Ben Vosman, scientist at Wageningen University and Research.
“We worked with samples of the wild tomato species Solanum galapagense from a gene bank. The first discovery was that this tomato species is resistant to whiteflies," Vosman said.
"Then it turned out that it is actually resilient to a lot of other insects too, including the green peach aphid and caterpillars of the beet armyworm. That was a very pleasant surprise.”
Lower pesticide use benefits the environment
Cultivated tomatoes are easily affected by pest insects. One is the whitefly, which transmits viruses that infect the plants and eventually kill them.
Farmers usually use pesticides to combat this pest.
“If we can make cultivated tomatoes resistant to whiteflies, this will directly benefit the environment,” Vosman said.
While this problem is still relatively manageable in greenhouses, for example through integrated control, there are pests there too. In field crops, the problems with insects are much bigger.
“We expect most of the gain to be in field cultivation and in the tropics. We are delighted with this discovery.”