Wednesday, February 22, 2012: 12:49:58 PM

Food Processing Trend

New species of drought and fungus resistant tomatoes developed

Researchers have developed new species of tomatoes that can withstand the onslaughts of nature as well as fungal attacks

Multiple issues like climate change, global warming and low market pricing have affected the production of crops. In addition, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and recurrent droughts has added to the problem, increasing salinity and alkalinity of the lands. Experts and researchers have been trying hard to develop new methods and techniques to cope with these problems and improve productivity.

 
Researchers from Kakatiya and Osmania Universities have recently been able to successfully develop tomato varieties using transgenic technologies that are able to cope with global warming and withstand the onslaught of various pests. These tomatoes can also be developed in soils affected by salinity.
 
Selection of tomato as a crop for experimentation is strategic because it is a model species for introduction of important agronomical genes. It contains Vitamin A and Vitamin C and is also a source of lycopene, which is the most powerful antioxidant that can help to fight cancers.
 
According to Dr V H Potty, food technologist and chairman of Diversified Food Technologies (India), Mysore, “Lycopene is one of the most studied components in tomato as it has been found to have a vital role in protecting humans from various types of cancer including colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreas. Being a powerful antioxidant, it has the ability to protect living cells and other structures in the body from oxygen damage and maintain DNA integrity in white blood cells. Lycopene is also believed to be able to activate cancer preventing Phase II enzymes. There is another view, which gives credit to other components present in tomato along with lycopene for the anticancer activity of the fruit. Lycopene is also linked to improved skin health by virtue of its ability to protect against undesirable UV ray exposure.” 
 
Growth in drought prone areas
 
An important criterion for growing tomato is that it cannot be grown in drought prone areas. However, Dr N Rama Swamy from the Kakatiya University and M Praveen, from the Ohio State University, Ohio, the US, have joined hands to develop salt-tolerant tomatoes. Based on their research, they have developed a salt tolerance among tomatoes through molecular cloning, making the newly formed tomato variety capable of growing in saline and drought prone areas.
 
In another research, a separate team consisting of S Anil Kumar, P Hima Kumari and P B Kavi Kishor from the Department of Genetics, Osmania University, have been able to develop a new variety of tomato that can effectively resist fungal pathogens. They used Osmotin and Chitinase genes to make the tomatoes resistant to pests and reduce the use of artificial pesticides.
 
Shopping for regular grocery items like tomato can often be a taxing job. In this context, Ambuj Jhunjhunwala, CEO of MyGrahak.com, says, “Shopping for daily groceries can often become hectic as people are forced to buy from different shops.” For such regular buyers, this innovation regarding the new variety of tomato will come as welcome news as they will now not be forced to stock their grocery products for off-seasons. The fears of tomatoes being wilted due to fungal attacks will also be pacified.   
 
Sambuddha Sengupta
 

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