Solanum pepper, have been mentioned in ancient Aztec recipes

Solanum
lycopersicum, otherwise
known as tomato, is a major crop plant known for its scientific and economic value.
It is considered as a preeminent model for plant development due to its short
generation time, simple diploid genetics, and routine transformation technology
(Ranjan, et al, 2012).
This plant species falls under the genus Solanum, one of the major angiosperm
genera under the family Solanaceae. It originated from the Andean region of
South America and has since spread around the world to become one of the most
commonly consumed fruit crops (Monforte and Fawcett, 2012).

Besides
its economic value, it has interesting developmental features, such as compound
leaves, fleshy fruits, and sympodial shoot branching.

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This paper aims to discuss the extensive
history of tomato breeding and domestication along with significant findings
from recent advances in tomato genome research.

Based on historical records, tomatoes,
along with salt and pepper, have been mentioned in ancient Aztec recipes dating
back to 500 BC. It wasn’t until after the Spanish inquisition in the 1500s that
tomatoes were first brought to Europe wherein it was named the “apples of
gold”. Initially, Europeans were reluctant to eat the tomatoes due to its
appearance being similar to a poisonous plant called nightshade. It took almost
three centuries for the people to accept and consume the fruit which will later
on revolutionize the global cuisine (Hopmans, 2013).

Since its spread in the global market,
tomatoes have undergone a rigorous process of domestication. People started to develop
breeding activities which led to the plant’s diversification into a wide range
of morphological forms. At first, scientists identified Solanum lycopersicum
cerasiforme as the primary ancestor of the modern tomato. It was
believed that the species was tiny and frail when it first dispersed throughout
South America (Bai &
Lindhout, 2007). Natives in the area domesticated the plant for a long
period of time, transforming it to the bigger and lumpier variety that was
brought to Europe by the Spaniards (Warnock).

A study was conducted by Nesbitt and
Tanksley in 2002 which identified the nature and timeframe of the plant’s
mutations that led to its domestication. This research led to a conclusion that
was contrary to the initial findings on the history of S. lycopersicum. It revealed that the ‘cerasiforme’ species is not
the first ancestor of tomato, but rather a mixture of its wild and cultivated
variety.

Numerous other genetic researches highlight
the evolution of the growth habits and physical characteristics of tomatoes. Tanksley
(2004) reported that mutations on a number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in
tomatoes are responsible for its size transformation. Consequently, it was
hypothesized that the QTL fruit weight
2·2, which triggered a major increase in the fruit’s weight, paved way for a
key transition in the process of tomato’s domestication.

Aside from its size, variations in the
fruit’s shape has also been eminent in its diversification. From its
round-shaped ancestor, tomatoes have evolved into a wide array of forms and
figures. Scientists believe that the modification of the fruit’s shape may have
been a side effect of its size variation (Bai & Lindhout, 2007). One other factor may have
been the demand for economic efficiency. In the late 1900s, machines were
unable to process common round-shaped tomatoes due to their softness. Because
of this, farmers started to cultivate elongated and more firm varieties of the
fruit (Tanksley, 2004).
 

On February, 2016, researchers from the
University of Michigan released a study detailing the patterns of genetic
mechanisms that triggered the diversity of the plant species. The researchers
tested a wild currant tomato using genome sequencing and was able to trace the
history of genetic divergence in 13 wild tomato species. The study was able to
shed some light on the genetic processes involved in the rapid adaptation of
tomatoes to the changes in its environment. These processes include: rapid
accumulation of new genetic mutations, gene recruitment from an ancestral pool,
and gene trading between species through natural crossbreeding (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160212141653.htm,
2016).

BREEDING
By the end of the 20th century, the tomato breeding industry has
started to develop globally. Different companies and farms conducted researches
for the production of a more stable variety of tomato. These institutions would
often focus on characters that ensure high-yielding and high-quality varieties that,
at the same time, also minimize the cost of production (Bai & Lindhout, 2007).

Alexander
Livingston, a botanist from Ohio, is known as the first person to produce a
commercial variety of tomato. He experimented for five years and was able to
develop a stable and marketable variety of the plant. Livingston named this the
‘Paragon’ tomato, a variety which prompted the spread of tomatoes in markets
throughout North America.

Several centuries after its introduction,
tomatoes have been developed to produce a large array of cultivars. One of its
first widely-known varieties is the ‘heirloom’ tomato. The term is a reference
to the fruit’s nature of producing progenies that are very similar to their
parent. This variety is open-pollinated and has unique morphological characters
(Barone, et al, 2008). Heirlooms are often bred only for
its flavor. They are known to have low productivity and are prone to pests and
disease infections.

In the advent of commercial breeding,
hybrid tomatoes were developed as an alternative to the heirlooms. These hybrid
varieties were modified to have higher yield and disease resistance. Tomato
hybrids has since been widely used by farmers due to their market efficiency (Bai & Lindhout, 2007).

GM
TOMATOES

 

ECONOMY

Tomatoes are one of the primary food sources
for humans due to its versatility. The
global tomato production industry is considered as one of the most advanced in
agriculture. In 2016 alone, it was reported that worldwide production reached
approximately 130 million tons, making it the seventh most important crop
product worldwide (Beurgeouix).
It is expected that the global demand and production for tomatoes will continue
to increase in the future.