News / Science & Technology

    Tastier Tomato, Tougher Rice Sought From Genetic Data

    O. glaberrima rice. (International Rice Research Institute)
    O. glaberrima rice. (International Rice Research Institute)

    The tough but unpopular cousins of two favorite food crops have yielded their genetic secrets. Hardier, tastier tomatoes and more resilient rice for a hungry planet are among the goals.

    In two reports in the journal Nature Genetics, scientists have published the genomes of African rice and a wild relative of the tomato.

    A Solanum pennellii fruit, which stays green upon ripening. (Dani Zamir's lab)A Solanum pennellii fruit, which stays green upon ripening. (Dani Zamir's lab)
    x
    A Solanum pennellii fruit, which stays green upon ripening. (Dani Zamir's lab)
    A Solanum pennellii fruit, which stays green upon ripening. (Dani Zamir's lab)

    There are good reasons why these two never really caught on the way their better-known kin did. The Asian species of rice is more productive and easier to process than African rice. The wild tomato, Solanum pennellii, is poisonous.

    But experts say they have other virtues. For one, they can grow in harsher environments, an increasingly important trait in a changing global climate.

    Food for a crowded planet

    Climate change is complicating crop production, even as the number of people needing to be fed is expected to grow by 2 billion or more in four decades. “And that’s a pretty scary scenario,” said University of Arizona plant biologist Rod Wing.

    Wing said scientists around the world are working to develop more productive rice varieties that require less water, fertilizer and pesticides, and can grow on less productive land.

    African rice can better handle drought, poor soils and weeds than Asian rice.

    With the complete DNA sequence that Wing and colleagues published, scientists can now try to find the genes that control those traits and breed them into new rice varieties quicker than before.

    Tomato's country cousin

    Similar motives drove the researchers who sequenced the genome of the wild tomato.

    This South American plant can tolerate the dry conditions in its Andean homeland better than conventional tomatoes, and can handle saltier soils.

    The detailed new genetic map identified the genes likely responsible for these traits.

    And it could help rescue the notoriously bland supermarket tomato. The researchers found differences between wild and commercial tomatoes in the genes that contribute to tomatoes’ flavor and aroma.

    “Even though these wild tomatoes definitely don’t taste better, this population gives us an indication of where the taste is coming from,” said bioinformatics expert and study co-author Bjorn Usadel, currently at RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

    Usadel added that the genome data will also help ensure that new varieties bred from the wild tomato do not carry any of its poisonous genes.

    “Even though this is a perfectly natural way to do things, of course we have to make sure that the tomatoes that result are really healthy and useful for consumers,” he said.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.