Teasing out the hidden subtleties of a type of hybrid vigor involving just one gene has provided scientists at Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory with means to tweak the length of time that bushy tomato varieties can produce flowers. In these plants, longer flowering time substantially raises fruit yield.
Tomatoes that will be canned for sauces and juice are harvested from plants that stop growing earlier than classic tomato varieties, and are therefore more like bushes. While the architecture of these compact bushy plants allows mechanical harvesters to reap the crop, the early end of growth means that each plant produces fewer fruits than their home garden cousins.
In his previous work, CSHL Associate Professor Zach Lippman and Israeli colleagues identified a rare example of hybrid vigor involving a genetic defect in the gene that makes florigen, a hormone that controls the process of flowering and flower production. The mutation dramatically increases tomato yields in bush tomatoes. These results suggest that it may be possible to manipulate florigen in a wide variety of flowering species to increase yields.
Read full, original article: Genetic discovery points the way to much bigger yields in tomato, other flowering food plants