More money for tomato genomes

Here’s one that squeaked under the radar a while back. The US is investing US$1.8 million to continue sequencing the tomato and other related plants of the Solanacae family. According to a press release, the work will form part of the “comprehensive International Solanaceae Genomics Project (SOL) Genomics Network database. This will tie together maps and genomes of all plants in the Solanaceae family, also called nightshades, which includes the potato, eggplant, pepper and petunia and is closely related to coffee from the Rubiaceae family.” The data will be fully public.

Just to bring the tomato back down to earth, genius writer Harold McGee points to a scientific paper that could help growers produce tastier tomatoes with absolutely no genomic knowledge. Water them with a dilute salt solution. A solution of 0.1% sodium chloride results in tomatoes with “significantly higher levels of flavorful organic acids and sugars, and as much as a third more vitamin C and beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A) and the antioxidant red pigment lycopene,” McGee says. The tomatoes are smaller, but who cares?

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