Thursday, June 17, 2004


An Israeli company has genetically created a super-tomato, one that can withstand a virus that devastates tomato crops every year the world over.

Hazera Genetics, an Israeli seed breeder, launched the world's first tomato strain that is immune to the ‘Yellow Lead Curl Tomato Virus,' according to a report in The Marker. The resistant tomato, called ‘Tracie’ by its researchers, is a breakthrough for tomato farmers, especially those cultivating the long-lived species that thrive over long periods rather than specific seasons. The resistant breed can be grown in open, ventilated hothouses throughout the summer, which reduces costs and improves both the quality of the fruit and the crop size.

Dr. Alon Haverfeld, who manages Hazera’s tomato seeds division, predicts that profits will be high. Dr. Haverfeld stated that price per kilogram of seed would range from $20,000 to $30,000, with the company aiming to reach sales of $1 million next year, and $5-7 million within three to four years.

Tomato Yellow Lead Curl Virus, or TYLCV, is devastating to Israeli tomato farmers. No resistant strains have been found since the plague first erupted in the 1930s, and conventional insecticides proved ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. The result was a severe blow to the cultivation of tomatoes in open fields in favor of hermetically sealed hothouses. TYLCV affects tomato crops throughout the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and tropical areas of Africa and Central America. In Israel, cultivation of tomatoes in sealed hothouses has the downside of creating moisture and overheating problems.

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