“We wanted to identify why modern tomato varieties are deficient in those flavor chemicals,” Klee said. “It’s because they have lost the more desirable alleles of a number of genes.”
Scientists then identified the locations of the good alleles in the tomato genome, he said. That required what’s called a genome-wide assessment study. There, scientists mapped genes that control synthesis of all the important chemicals. Once they found them, they used genetic analysis to replace bad alleles in modern tomato varieties with the good alleles, Klee said.
Because breeding takes time, and the scientists are studying five or more genes, Klee said the genetic traits from his latest study may take three to four years to produce in new tomato varieties.
This technique involves classical genetics, not genetic modification. “We can make the supermarket tomato taste noticeably better.”