New tomato bred to resist pests and curb disease

New tomato bred to resist pests and curb disease

A Cornell researcher has completed a decades-long program to develop new varieties of tomato that naturally resist pests and limit transfer of viral disease by insects.

Martha Mutschler-Chu, a plant breeder and geneticist who leads the program, recently deposited an initial set of insect-resistant tomato research lines in the U.S. Department of Agriculture germplasm system and the Tomato Genetics Resource Center at University of California-Davis, which will be available for anyone to access the plants for research.

This spring, Mutschler-Chu will complete development of a new set of 20 elite lines, which will then be made available to any interested seed company, which may breed the pest resistant traits into commercial varieties. Breeding new varieties could take seed companies up to five years before they start selling new insect resistant varieties.  

For growers, these benefits will offer less crop loss and fruit damage, while also eliminating or reducing pesticide use and protecting the environment.

Pest resistance in these tomatoes was adapted from a wild tomato native to Peru, Solanum pennellii. The Andean tomato has little hairs called trichomes that excrete droplets of sugar compounds, called acylsugars, which repulse insects. In this way, the plants safely and naturally deter a wide variety of insects, preventing them from feeding, eating leaves and transferring viruses, or laying eggs, where larvae might damage plants.

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Photo created by wayhomestudio -



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