By Saloni N

A tomato plant

Courtesy: RTGR

A tilling project in the Department of Plant Sciences in the University (in 2005) isolated several mutants in tomato and an idea of a repository, where they could be stored, was conceptualized. But it needed funds and special facilities. The need for facilities was met when Prof K. Vijay Raghavan inaugurated the Repository of Tomato Genomic Resources (RTGR) building on September 2, 2013.

Prof K. Vijay Raghavan, is secretary Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The repository is a brain-child of Prof. Rameshwar Sharma, Department of Plant Sciences and Head of RTGR. “Sir had an idea of a repository, a collection house and resource centre, says P. Rachna, PhD scholar specializing in functional genomics.

In the current setup they have 10 green-houses and a field with drip irrigation to grow tomatoes in. There are 5 to 6 field assistants. They follow crop rotation, to fix nitrogen levels in the nodules and are currently growing jute in the field till November, which is the best season for tomatoes.

The major aim of RTGR is functional characterization of all tomato genes through the use of mutants and other methods. RTGR is funded by several agencies and has seed storage and other top notch facilities.

The foundation stone for the building was laid down a year back and since March the building has been functional. Explaining the importance of tomato Rakesh Kumar, another PhD scholar says, “There are many vegetables, but tomato is part of everyone’s diet regardless of which region of India they are from.” Rachna adds, “Tomatoes are cheap and nutritious and nominal unlike apples and guava that are rich in nutrients but expensive.”

Tomatoes contain carotenoids, lycopin, beta carotene, which in simpler terms are anti-oxidants, anti-cancerous and remove stress and are pro-vitamin A. Under the project they are looking for tomatoes that have more anti-oxidants and are attempting to increase their nutrient content.

They are selecting tomatoes that have beneficiary mutation and are trying to introduce them in the Indian varieties. Increasing the shelf life of tomatoes is another focus. “Looking at tomatoes shelf life, it is very short but there are some that can last for months, so we are attempting to modify native tomato to benefit people”, explains Rakesh.