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Scientists create tomato of the future with some incredible features: ‘We can produce crops in new ways’

“Here’s a complementary approach to help feed people…”

"Here's a complementary approach to help feed people ..."

Photo Credit: iStock

Sure, you may have succeeded in growing some tomatoes in your home garden. But can you grow them … in space

Scientists have just genetically modified cherry tomatoes to make them easier to grow, and the future applications could include making them more viable for indoor farming and even space travel, their creators say.

The scientists, working out of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, used a gene-editing technology called CRISPR to make changes to three key genes within the cherry tomatoes’ DNA. Two of those genes are responsible for when the plant stops growing and starts flowering and fruiting. The third controls the length of the plant’s stem. 

The end result is a more compact cherry tomato plant that grows in clusters, like grapes, and also more quickly than unmodified cherry tomatoes, in only around 40 days. These changes make the tomatoes easier to grow in smaller, controlled spaces, like indoor farms, urban rooftop farms, and even spaceships. The scientists published their results in a paper in Nature Biotechnology

Although the idea of space tomatoes is fun and exciting, the more immediate application of these modified crops is that they could prove to be more viable, as human-caused pollution makes farming land more limited and introduces challenges for crops.

“This demonstrates how we can produce crops in new ways, without having to tear up the land as much or add excessive fertilizer that runs off into rivers and streams,” plant biologist Zach Lippman, one of the scientists behind the project, said in a statement. “Here’s a complementary approach to help feed people, locally and with a reduced carbon footprint.”

The statement went on to describe the goal of the project as “shifting some of the burden of growing the world’s crops” from overly taxed farmland “to urban and other areas.”

The effects of pollution are constantly changing our relationship with the food that we consume. If you want to learn more about how the food you buy and eat matters, check out our guide to shopping and cooking smarter.

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