A tomato comes back home

by Luigi Guarino on March 10, 2016

The return to its native land of an historic tomato variety developed by the famous wheat breeder Nazareno Strampelli is making a splash in Italy. Originally published in the rather specialized organ L’Iformatore Agrario, the news has now been picked up by the more mainstream media, at least regionally.

The tomato variety Varrone, bred by the Italian geneticist Nazareno Strampelli (1866-1942) sometime in the late 1910s.

The tomato variety Varrone, bred by the Italian geneticist Nazareno Strampelli (1866-1942) some time in the late 1910s, lost, and now found. In Russia.

What’s particularly interesting to us here is that Varrone, as the variety is called, was eventually found in the genebank of the Vavilov Institute, in St Petersburg, Russia.

“It is a small tribute to the memory of Strampelli on his 150th birthday: from tomorrow it will be possible to eat spaghetti Cappelli-Varrone, 100% Strampelli, not only for the durum wheat but also for the tomato sauce,” says Roberto Papa, professor of agricultural genetics at the Universit√† Politecnica delle Marche, who coordinated the research in collaboration with Sergio Salvi, biologist and biographer of Strampelli, and Giovanna Attene professor of agricultural genetics at the Universit√† di Sassari.

The durum wheat variety Senatore Cappelli was also bred by Strampelli in the 1910s, and remained popular for decades. I’m sure Strampelli would have been pleased that his tomato has been found. Not so sure what he would have thought about losing it in the first place.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Wood March 10, 2016 at 2:06 pm

There are three Varrone wheat samples in the USDA PI system but not, apparently, the tomato.
A. Brandolini and P. Vaccino. 2012. A glimpse into the past: Strampelli’s bread wheats legacy. Genet Res Crop Evol 59:839-850.


Luigi March 10, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Yes, “Varrone” the tomato is not even in VIR’s own database. It was found by consulting the curator of VIR’s vegetable collection directly. One of those things that has me cursing Genebank Database Hell. But, on the other hand, they did find it in the end.


Sergio Salvi March 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

To Luigi: Varrone tomato IS in the VIR database, it is the accession No. 178 of the genus Lycopersicon and it was found firstly by consulting the database. After found it, a seed sample was requested to VIR.
Sergio Salvi


Luigi Guarino March 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm

My mistake! If you look in the tomato database, rather than the overall thing, you do end up with the right accession.


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