Groundcherry, the next strawberry?
Physalis : la fraise de demain?
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.
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.
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.”
Native to Central and South America, the groundcherry belongs to a group known as “orphan crops”.