Tel Aviv CRISPR Tomatoes: Gene Editing Breakthrough Creates Water-Saving Super Crops

Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently publicized an agricultural science breakthrough. Thanks to CRISPR gene editing, they developed new tomato varieties, maintaining yield while using less water. This innovation tackles the pressing challenge of raising crop yields with diminishing freshwater availability, an escalating concern with global warming.

The study was led by Professor Shaul Yalovsky and Nir Sade of the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at Tel Aviv’s Wise Faculty of Life Sciences.

Their multidisciplinary team included Mallikarjuna Rao Puli, a former postdoc and doctoral student, Purity Muchoki, plus collaborators from Ben Gurion University and the University of Oregon. The prestigious journal PNAS published their findings.

The team explained the escalating need for water-efficient crops without reduced yields, as global warming and shrinking freshwater strain agriculture. They detailed how plants control water loss and carbon dioxide uptake via leaf stomata, a delicately balanced process in drought.

They targeted the ROP9 gene regulating stomatal opening and closing. “We found CRISPR-eliminating ROP9 partially closes stomata, especially at midday,” said Yalovsky when transpiration peaked. “But morning and afternoon, stomata stayed open enough for adequate carbon dioxide to sustain photosynthesis and sugar production, even as afternoon stomata narrowed more in ROP9-modified plants.”

Extensive field tests showed that ROP9-modified tomatoes maintained photosynthesis, yields, and quality with unreduced sugar. The research also revealed a new stomatal regulation mechanism involving reactive oxygen species levels.

Sade noted ROP9’s similarity to ROP proteins in other crops. This suggests their findings could enable the breeding of water-efficient varieties of many economically vital plants, offering an arid agriculture solution.


Leave a Comment