Hybrid tomatoes show natural resistance to whitefly

A Dutch research team has identified a gene in a wild relative of the tomato which keeps the virus-carrying whitefly Bemisia tabaci at bay.

screening tomato plants for Bemisia resistance - image: Wageningen UR
screening tomato plants for Bemisia resistance - image: Wageningen UR
A team at Wageningen University led by Syarifin Firdaus crossed cultivated tomatoes with 30 different wild species, then infested each progeny with whitefly. The Galápogos tomato (Solanum galapagense) cross showed the highest level of resistance to whitefly.

Research on the plants' DNA then identified the two genes which appear to confer the resistance.

According to a statement from the university: "A plant breeding company hopes to introduce these genes into cultivated tomatoes and bring a resistant tomato to market within two years."

As well as damaging fruit, whitefly also spread plant viruses such as tomato yellow leaf curl, though under glass the insects can be contained using biological controls.

The findings are published this month in the open-access journal Euphytica, and can be read in full here.

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