The Food Revolution: Re-domestication of Vegetables and Fruits

In the early 20th century, there was a strange tomato that sprouted in the North-eastern United States. Due to genetic mutation, the branches of the plant grew shorter than they should be. This, therefore, led to more compact crops making harvesting easier. According to Joyce Van Eck’ biologist specialist in plants from Thompson Institute in New York, the plant’s traits revolutionized’ the production of commercial tomatoes.

Other great qualities that are associated with tomatoes came by chance. Over several years of selective breeding, the fruit evolved from pea size to the size of an apple. The ripening was more streamlined in an effort to ensure tomatoes sold at the supermarket had a uniform red color. The farmers who fell for these great features inadvertently lost others such as nutritional value, flavor, and the ability to resist drought.

The genetic history of tomato is its typical produce and by accident of genetic mutation we have practically ended up with vegetables and fruit. Well, Van Eck is one of the greatest geneticists’ who envisions other effective approaches to activation. Her lab is on the verge to rekindle the history. They have started with the wild crop ancestors and their related modern ‘crop plants, which come with their own amazing features. Therefore, utilizing gene-editing technology known as the CRISPR-Cas9 is giving more attractive traits to commercial products.

This idea was tried in the year 2016 when a group of the university including the University of Sao Paulo’ brought the idea of planning towards re-domesticating the tomatoes. In the paper which they published on Plant Science, they were able to identify several essential characters, for example, the size of the fruit, and the length of the branch and they revealed that the attractive modern’ versions of these particular traits resulted from the change of their functions. If they were to change those genes, they could be able to secure redo-domestication.

The CRISPR -Cs9 system was launched in the year 2013, which was an adorable job. When it is injected inside the nucleus of a cell, the system is able to successfully get rid of the predetermined sequence of genes. The CRISPR -Cas9 was used on a wild tomato to shape the DNA in order to guide the growth of long shoots. This resulted in a more compact plant alongside ancient characteristics such as nutrients and flavor.

Late last’ year Peres’ made a test in the lab, on Nature Biotechnology, whereby he and many other colleagues found that it was possible to regulate the length of the branch and boost the size of the fruit and the general yields. Important fruits such as the antioxidant, and lycopene could also be improved.

The viability of this strategy was put under verification by another great independent researcher at the Chinese’ Academy’ of the Sciences which was published last year. Through the use of the same technique, they were able to introduce commercial and more valuable traits and at the same time retain tomato plants that are resistant to droughts. These highly resilient versions can successfully withstand the effects brought about by the change of climate.

The ancestral’ relatives of modern crops have proved to be the perfect start. In fact, as Peres and Kudla were struggling to separate the tomato plants, Van Eck’ was busy enlisting CRISPR aimed at improving the commercial’ ground cherries. Cherry is a distant tomato’ sold by the farmer’s markets which is very flavorful, nutritious, and highly impractical. The fruit is very minuscule where their branch drops off when it is ripe, which makes it a bit difficult when it comes to harvesting. These problems were fixed by Van Eck where he compared genes of the ground cherries and the genes of domesticated tomatoes where he singled out similar ones.

Most of the people are now seeking more information from Van Eck’ on other potential crops. She says that a farmer from Nigeria informed her that they had indigenous grains which were naturally resistant to droughts. The plant does not produce a lot of seeds and has unwieldy growth’ pattern which makes it challenging when it comes to harvesting. She is conducting an investigation in the lab on mutations that are likely to make it easy to harvest.

With the good capacity to guide the plants through various cultivation pathways or explore what would have happened if the ancestors had taken some crops, CRISPR has been able to turn out the speculations into reality. This is aimed at taking care of the future which is likely to have more individuals feeding on them.

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