Tomatoes are one of ordinary people’s favorite vegetables. But in recent years, consumers always complain that tomatoes are not tasted good as they were. A research team from Shenzhen Agricultural Genomics Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences led by Huang Sanwen found the tomato flavor regulatory mechanism and explained the tomato flavor hereditary basis for the first time, which pays the way for improving the tomato flavor. The finding was recently published in the international journal Science as a cover.
According to Huang Sanwen, the flavor of vegetables is not a breeding character that can be quantized like shape and color. It can be tasted, but can’t be seen nor touched, which decides the difficulty of the study. Huang Sanwen and Professor Harry Klee from the University of Florida formed a 20-person collaborative research team and has studied on it for four years. The team organized a “Taste Group” involving 170 people to conduct a strict taste experiment over 100 varieties of tomatoes. They finally determined 300 major flavor substances and revealed the material basis of tomato flavor. After that, they analyzed over 400 flavor substances of tomatoes around the world and acquired about 50 genetic loci that control flavors through studying on the genomic sequencing and bioinformatics. For the first time, they illuminated the hereditary basis of tomato flavor.
The research also found the reason why the tomatoes lost their flavor is that the partial genetic loci that control the flavor quality have lost in the process of modern breeding which lays emphasis on yield, appearance and other commercial characteristics. 13 varieties of flavor substances have remarkably decreased in the modern tomatoes, leading to the change of tomato taste. The finding gives a practicable route map for breeding tasty tomatoes. Now, the research team, in collaboration with breeders, has cultivated a new high-sugar tomato variety. They are also working on bringing the former tasty tomatoes back to people’s dinner.