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Genome sequence of the tomato unlocked

ITHACA, N.Y., May 30 (UPI) -- The genome of the tomato has been decoded, a step toward improving yield, nutrition, disease resistance, taste and color of the tomato, U.S. researchers say.

The full genome sequence of the "Heinz 1706" variety of tomato comes after years of work by an international collaboration known as the Tomato Genomics Consortium.

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Consortium researchers report that tomatoes possess some 35,000 genes arranged on 12 chromosomes.

"For any characteristic of the tomato, whether it's taste, natural pest resistance or nutritional content, we've captured virtually all those genes," said James Giovannoni, a scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University.

"Tomato genetics underlies the potential for improved taste every home gardener knows and every supermarket shopper desires and the genome sequence will help solve this and many other issues in tomato production and quality," he said in a Cornell release Wednesday.

The genome data will help seed companies and plant breeders sequence other varieties for research and development, he said, noting that whereas the first tomato genome sequence came at a cost of millions of dollars, subsequent ones might only cost $10,000 or less by building on these initial findings.

"Now we can start asking a lot more interesting questions about fruit biology, disease resistance, root development and nutritional qualities," Giovannoni says.

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