Groundcherry, the next strawberry?

Phy­sa­lis : la fraise de de­main?

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire -

Le phy­sa­lis, fruit du fu­tur ?

Le phy­sa­lis ou « ce­rise de terre », pro­duit par la plante du même nom, est un fruit dont vous n’avez cer­tai­ne­ment ja­mais en­ten­du par­ler. Pour­tant, il re­gorge de bien­faits. Jus­qu’ici trop pe­tit pour être com­mer­cia­li­sé à grande échelle, il pour­rait être « per­fec­tion­né » grâce à une tech­nique d’édi­tion de gènes, et ve­nir ré­vo­lu­tion­ner les étals de nos su­per­mar­chés dans les an­nées à ve­nir...

Al­te­ring fruit DNA could be the next big thing in the world of ber­ries, ac­cor­ding to a team of scien­tists. Ta­king the groundcherry or phy­sa­lis, a tas­ty fruit that has ne­ver gai­ned wi­des­pread po­pu­la­ri­ty, they were able to qui­ck­ly boost its size and pro­duc­ti­vi­ty by edi­ting its genes. In doing so, the re­sear­chers say they have tur­ned a niche crop in­to one that is far more sui­table for mains­tream far­ming.

QUICK DOMESTICATION

2. His­to­ri­cal­ly, do­mes­ti­ca­ting fruit has of­ten ta­ken cen­tu­ries as far­mers pains­ta­kin­gly breed their crops to choose the best cha­rac­te­ris­tics and fil­ter out the worst ones. But the advent of ge­ne­tic tech­no­lo­gy means this pro­cess can be cut to a mat­ter of years as re­sear­chers iden­ti­fy and re­move any un­de­si­rable traits wi­thout com­pro­mi­sing the de­si­rable ones.

3. Dr Za­cha­ry Lipp­man, the Ho­ward Hu­ghes Me­di­cal Institute plant scien­tist who led the stu­dy, said the orange, slight­ly sour fruits ty­pi­cal­ly “sell like hot­cakes” when they oc- ca­sio­nal­ly turn up in US far­mers mar­kets. Re­fer­red to as a can­di­date for “the next strawberry” by the institute’s of­fi­cial re­lease, Dr Lipp­man said he is sure ge­ne­tic twea­king can help these fruits rank along­side all the most po­pu­lar ber­ries. “I firm­ly be­lieve that with the right ap­proach, the groundcherry could be­come a ma­jor ber­ry crop,” he said.

4. Na­tive to Cen­tral and South Ame­ri­ca, the groundcherry be­longs to a group known as “or­phan crops”, which are wi­de­ly grown on a small scale but are sel­dom seen on su­per­mar­ket shelves be­cause they are dif­fi­cult to grow com­mer­cial­ly. The unique fla­vour of ground­cher­ries com­bi­ned with their drought re­sis­tance – an im­por­tant fea­ture as the world gets war­mer – made these fruits the per­fect can­di­dates for im­pro­ve­ment.

LAR­GER FRUITS

5. Af­ter se­quen­cing the ge­ne­tic code of this plant, Dr Lipp­man and his col­leagues iden­ti­fied the genes control­ling un­wan­ted fea­tures and used the gene edi­ting tool Cris­pr to change them. When they grow na­tu­ral­ly, ground­cher­ries co­ver a wide area and on­ly pro­duce small fruits less than a gram in weight. Using their ex­pe­rience wor­king with to­ma­to plants, the scien­tists were able to ma­ni­pu­late the plants to make them more com­pact, while al­so pro­du­cing more flo­wers and lar­ger fruit. Dr Lipp­man now in­tends to fur­ther re­fine the groundcherry ge­nome to im­prove fruit co­lour and fla­vour, but ta­king these mo­di­fied plants to mar­ket will be a dif­fi­cult pro­cess.

“With the right ap­proach, the groundcherry could be­come a ma­jor ber­ry crop.”

(Is­tock)

Na­tive to Cen­tral and South Ame­ri­ca, the groundcherry be­longs to a group known as “or­phan crops”.

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