Building a better tomato

Looking for a tastier tomato? A global team of scientists is on the case. Harry Klee, a horticulture professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, along with researchers from China, Israel and Spain, have identified chemical combinations that contribute to better tomato flavor. Modern tomatoes lack sufficient sugars and volatile chemicals critical to flavor, traits that have been lost over the years because breeders haven’t had tools to screen for flavor, Harry says in a UF/IFAS news release. “We’re just fixing what has been damaged over the last half-century to push them back to where they were a century ago, taste-wise,” Harry says in an IFAS news release. “We can make the supermarket tomato taste noticeably better.” Because breeding takes time, Harry says the genetic traits from the study may take three or four years to produce new tomato varieties. Florida growers produced 33,000 acres of tomatoes worth $437 million annually as of 2014, according to UF/IFAS research.