Tomato plants need sufficient amount of darkness. If they don’t get eight hours of their beauty sleep, they start developing yellow spots and ultimately die. That’s not a problem for casual gardeners, but for professional cultivators who work overtime to increase yield by putting the plants under artificial light, the necessary time-out slows production.
With an attempt to provide a solution to this problem, scientists in Netherlands have been experimenting on how to cultivate tomatoes that will grow reliably even when exposed to sunlight all day long. Now, they’ve published results in Nature, which explain that Velez’s group has isolated a gene that could help tomatoes grow round the clock.
The gene, known as “type III Light Harvesting Chlorophyll a/b Binding protein 13 (CAB-13)” I is found in some wild tomatoes and known to control their tolerance towards light. When inserted into modern tomato hybrids lines – a process known as introgression – their results showed a 20 percent boost in production when the plants are exposed to all-day light. That’s not far of the 30 percent increase you’d expect from a 24-hour growth period; pretty compelling stuff, and possibly a major win for tomato growers.
This doesn’t mean that farmers will be growing tomatoes under spotlights all night long anytime soon. That’s a lot of variables to balance before isolating the precise gears and levers. Proteins, sugars, electrolytes and everything in between operate in intricate balances, so becoming certain of why exactly a plant or any animal exhibits a particular condition (like light resistance) is a lengthy process. “It is because of that complexity that we still do not have a proven explanation,” Velez says.
If U.S farmers could cultivate tomatoes that flourished under light 24 hours a day, more of those tomatoes could originate in home soil.
“This poorly studied protein should receive a bit more of attention in future research,” Velez says.” In other words, scientists are about to shine an even brighter light on tomato production.