Tomato is the second most important vegetable crop in the world, the fruit of which is eaten fresh or consumed in several processed products such as soups and sauces. Tomatoes are rich with important vitamins, minerals as well as antioxidants with potential anti-cancer and other healthful capabilities.
The origin of the tomato plant is in equatorial countries in South America. As such, over millions of years, tomato plants have evolved a biological clock adapted to the day length around the equator. However, as humans domesticated tomatoes over the last few thousand years, they also traveled with the seeds, breeding tomatoes to be more successful crop plants in high latitude regions. Through this process, the tomato biological clock was altered to fit the new long days in these regions of the planet.
The process of altering a crop's biological clock through domestication is not unique to tomato and may be quite common; however, because of its important role in regulating how the plant protects itself from disease and insects, an altered biological clock may thus increase a plant's susceptibility to disease. This research aims to use tomato as a model to better understand how crop domestication affected the biological clock and how this, in turn, may have affected the plant's innate ability to defend itself from disease.
The overarching societal goal for this research is to contribute to increased crop defenses at a basic level, helping growers reduce their inputs and produce cheaper, sustainable food for a growing population.