Tuesday, August 15, 2023

"Mutant tomato could save crops around the world"

From Freethink, August 12:

The naturally evolved trait could be key to food security in the future.

Researchers have discovered that a mutated tomato breed, known to botanists for decades, is highly resilient against a notorious plant disease. Breeding this trait into other types of crop could one day help to improve global food security. 

The challenge: The world’s most important crops face a constant barrage of threats: from insect and fungi attacks to droughts, floods, and heatwaves. While crop resilience can be improved using pesticides or genetic modification, both can raise thorny issues and public opposition. 

Far less controversial is looking for naturally occurring mutations in crops which make them less vulnerable to disease and weather stress. If these traits can be identified, they could then be encouraged to spread through selective breeding.

Unfortunately, such useful mutations are rarely easy to spot. Since there are so many factors in play when determining a crop’s resilience, it is challenging to single out a particular gene for its role in a successful harvest.

The mutant: In the 1950s, botanists noticed a mutation in one breed of tomato that completely changed the way the plant grew. Instead of reaching upwards like a regular tomato plant, one mutant tomato breed, named adpressa, tends to lie close to the ground. For decades, this behaviour was an interesting curiosity to botanists, but was never seen as particularly useful....


And the mutants shall save us.