Genome sequenced, tomato yield may look up

Indian researchers, along with those from 13 other countries have sequenced the genome of the tomato and its wild ancestor Solanum pimpinellifolium. The achievement, hopes the Department of Biotechnology that funded the Indian leg of the research, will not only increase yield and tackle the problem of perishability of the crop, but also make it better suitable to combat pests.

Work on the tomato genome that featured 300 scientists from around the world is the cover story in the current issue of Nature. Indian scientists sequenced chromosome five of the 12-chromosome vegetable. They have also taken up analysis of specific genes/gene families related to ripening, nutrition, disease resistance, and abiotic stress tolerance. Delhi University, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute and the National Institute of Plant Genome Research worked on the project.

"The new sequences are expected to provide reference points helpful for identifying important genes in tomato's relatives like potato, pepper, eggplant and petunia. If we can tackle the perishability of tomato, it would be a huge boon to agriculture because almost half of the tomato we produce is lost," says Secretary, Biotechnology, Dr M K Bhan.

According to A K Tyagi, the coordinator for the initiative, the genome contains 900 million bases. Indian scientists have already started work on the wheat genome, which is five times larger than the human genome, and also the chickpea genome, Tyagi adds.

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