Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ag Video Thursday: A brief overview of tomato genetics.

In preparation for our next profile, Monsanto tomato breeder Doug Heath, we thought we'd give you a quick prep on genetics.

The first is entertaining, put out by a group in Europe called EU-Sol, entitled "Genetics 2.0- Tomatoes Having Sex."

The second is a student video from Oregon State that gives a 3-minute summary of how a cross is made between male and female plants. A hybrid tomato is made by crossing two tomato plants with fixed genetics, known as "parents." I believe that there is some misconception out there about hybrids. I must stress that hybridization is completely unrelated to genetic engineering. It is simply a controlled process that allows breeders to consistently offer traits such as disease-resistance, yield, color, etc. Seeds are rarely saved because they will not reproduce consistently; it's a natural result of the process.

Third is song. While trolling for a good video summary of genetics, I found this great one about Gregor Mendel, a song by a group called Moxy Fruvous from Toronoto.

Finally, if you'd like a more in-depth, brief lecture (6 minutes) on tomato genetics, the last video is of a researcher, Dr. Harry Klee at University of Florida discussing the process of tomato crossing and molecular biology. He discusses molecular markers, which allows breeders to see inside the tomato's DNA and see if they have achieved a desired cross. That process can cut years off of research and development, but still uses classic breeding methods. If it's been awhile since your Biology 201 class, I recommend it as an update.

Enjoy! Genetics and tomatoes...two of my favorite things.


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