Gene editing yields tomatoes that flower and ripen weeks earlier


So research in my lab over many years
has been focused on identifying genes that are responsible
flowers and plants in particular we work on tomato and flower production in
tomato like many crops is critical for making fruits and seeds which is of
course very important for agriculture so in our most recent research we’ve
identified a new gene that was critical for tomato to be cultivated in northern
latitudes such as the Mediterranean Basin where it was first introduced over
500 years ago as well as the northern latitudes of California and even further
north into Canada now it turns out that this gene is actually responsible for
preventing flowering when the days are very long in order for tomato to now be
grown in northern latitudes we had to have a change in the function or the
activity of this gene so that it wasn’t active as much as in the wild in
particular what we found is that when the activity of this gene was suppressed
tomato could now be cultivated in northern latitudes where the day lengths
are longer but the growing season is shorter we then went a step further and
asked well if we could completely eliminate the activity of this gene
mutate the gene entirely so that it no longer functions at all then perhaps we
could get even earlier flowering tomato varieties and we in fact did this using
a new and very powerful gene editing technology known as CRISPR and by using
this technology we could pinpoint mutations directly in the gene and when
we generated these mutations we then created plants that flowered two to
three weeks earlier than most varieties and this may sound like a very subtle
change but when you’re talking to farmers you understand that having the
ability to generate fruits at an earlier point in the growing season is not only
important for production in order to get to market faster but also now opens the
door to expanding the geographical range of where the tomato crop can be grown
for example and even in higher northern latitudes of Canada where tomato seasons
are very short and so our hope is that from the discovery of this gene
the lab that we can now implement this in other varieties of tomato and even
other crops in order to achieve the same outcome of early yielding crops.

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