The dark tissue that signals blossom end rot in tomatoes is a major problem for large producers and home gardeners, especially under hot, dry conditions. But a Purdue University researcher has found a way to greatly reduce occurrences of the disease.
In the early 1990s, horticulture professor Avtar Handa developed a genetically engineered tomato with a thicker juice that yields 10 percent more tomato paste than parental, nonengineered tomatoes. He said large commercial producers were interested but back then, regulatory approval for such technology was difficult to achieve.
More than 20 years later, Handa's research has shown that these genetically modified tomatoes can reduce blossom end rot about three-fold when conditions are conducive to the disease. Handa's tomatoes have more free-moving calcium — calcium deficiency is responsible for blossom end rot in tomatoes.
Handa’s transgenic tomato lines are ready for commercialization and are waiting for the regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We're coming to a time when people are starting to use genetically modified crops," Handa said. "The technology is matured and dependable and ready to be used now."