May is National Salad Month! Created by the Association for Dressing and Sauces in 1992, National Salad Month encourages people to incorporate more salads into their daily food regimen.
One of the most popular salad ingredients is the tomato. Not only are they delicious additions to a traditional garden salad, do a quick search for “tomato salad” and you’ll find a wealth of recipes that combine tomatoes with ingredients like onions, herbs, oil and vinegar for a quick and delicious snack.
More than two billion pounds of tomatoes are produced in the U.S. each year, making it one of the top agricultural crops for producers. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports research that leads to better, stronger and tastier varieties of tomatoes, benefiting both producers and consumers.
Current funded projects include the following:
- The University of Florida is determining the impact of fumigation on the soil microbiome related to tomato plant disease and plant production to develop strategies that limit environmental impacts and improve the sustainability of high-intensity specialty crop production systems.
- The University of Idaho is working to understand the molecular basis of fruit development and ripening, and to use such knowledge to genetically manipulate relevant genes and pathways to produce a tomato with improved agronomic traits. Specifically, the goal is to develop novel and innovative ways for making tomatoes ripen early, without unwanted side effects on the growth of the plants.
- The Research Foundation of the City University of New York is taking an integrated genetic and biophysical approach to tomato crop protection. Researchers are studying the tomato cuticle – the versatile extracellular surface covering – to strengthen its structural and protective functions.
- North Carolina State University is working to identify new genetic determinants of verticillium wilt resistance in tomatoes and enable the development of disease-resistant cultivars. Verticillium wilt, a disease that affects over 350 varieties of plants, has long been a major limitation to tomato production.
- Pennsylvania State University is studying the colonization and survival of bacteriocin, toxins produced by bacteria to inhibit the growth of similar or closely related bacterial strain, in tomatoes to gain insight into ecologically important factors that lead to disease.