Improvements in gene editing will make it possible to grow a far wider range of seedless fruit than is currently available, New Scientist has reported.
There are already several types of seedless fruit, including bananas, cucumbers, grapes and oranges, but many have been created by chance, according to the magazine.
Seedless bananas, for example, came about through accidental crosses between subspecies, while others resulted from spontaneous mutations. In tomatoes there are a handful of seedless varieties but they have taken breeders a long time to create.
Now agricultural plant scientist Keishi Osakabe and his team from Tokushima University in Japan have used a gene editing technique called CRISPR to intentionally cause a mutation that makes tomatoes seedless. The mutation increases levels of the hormone auxin, which stimulates fruit to develop despite the fact that no seeds have started to form.
New Scientist reported that earlier genetic engineering techniques have been used to create seedless tomatoes but these were more complicated and time-intensive than the CRISPR method.
The other major benefit of creating completely seedless fruit in this way is that it requires no pollination at all, which could boost food security by reducing growers’ reliance on declining bee populations.
The main disadvantage is that seedless plants have to be grown from cuttings, which could require more labour than growing from seed.