Genetically modified tomatoes that grow in clusters like grapes and could prove particularly suitable for growing urban agriculture have been developed by a research team at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory led by Zach Lippman. The main feature of these new tomatoes is that they grow in clusters and in a very compact way: this makes it much easier to grow them in the most limited spaces.
As reported in the press release that appeared on the website of the same American institute, “they look like a bouquet whose roses have been replaced by ripe cherry tomatoes.” The other very useful feature is that they ripen faster than normal tomatoes of the same size: in less than 40 days the plant can produce tomatoes that are already ripe and ready to eat.
The researchers have achieved this result by acting on two genes that are the basis of the reproductive growth and size of tomato plants, called SELF PRUNING (SP) and SP5G. By modifying these two genes, the researchers were able to speed up plant growth and flowering with the fruits as well as reduce the size of the fruits themselves. By acting on a third gene, called SIER, they were able to limit the length of the stems and make the flowering extremely more compact.
This is a new approach to agriculture with which you can do without too large expanses of land or even special fertilizers that can then pollute the environment, especially rivers and streams, as explained by Lippman himself, characteristics that are, however, the basis of the same concept of urban agriculture.
In addition, genetic changes such as these can also be well seen in relation to today’s climate change: more and more people live in land heavily degraded by climate and abuse, including forestation. By shifting agriculture from such contexts to urban areas and making it more individual-oriented, perhaps it is possible to slow down the mismanagement of soils that we see today throughout the world.