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Traditional tomato varieties and cultural practices: a case for agricultural diversification with impact on food security and health of European population

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TRADITOM (Traditional tomato varieties and cultural practices: a case for agricultural diversification with impact on food security and health of European population)

Période du rapport: 2016-09-01 au 2018-08-31

TRADITOM is a research and innovation project that focuses on the identification and valorisation of European traditional tomato varieties and their cultural practices. The main aim of TRADITOM is to provide traditional tomato farmers with a strong science-based knowledge platform on the identity and variability of traditional tomato varieties which are grown on the farm or available in public repositories.

TRADITOM results will contribute to increasing competitiveness of traditional tomato growers in a market that is progressively replacing the rich heritage of traditional tomatoes and growing practices by a reduced set of modern hybrids cultivated in high technology facilities. This typically results in loss of variability and accompanying complaints of consumers about loss of flavour. The loss of fruit quality negatively impacts consumption and healthy nutrition of the European population.

In this context, the following specific objectives of TRADITOM have been achieved:
1. Information and Conservation: A TRADITOM map and repository have been set up at . It features descriptions of traditional EU tomato varieties, their methods of cultivation, the environmental characteristics of regions where they have been traditionally cultivated and is a place where seeds are stored.
2. Assessment: The available genotypic and phenotypic variability present in the TRADITOM varieties has been assessed, the scientific evidence required to identify and distinguish traditional varieties from commercially bred cultivars has been obtained.
3. Improvement: Farmers and breeders are being provided with new versions of traditional varieties incorporating yield and disease resistance traits without affecting their good sensory characteristics.
4. Valorisation: Traditional varieties and impact of traditional cultivation methods that improve quality have been enhanced by a thorough characterization of their nutritional and health compound contents, the identification of consumers’ preferences and evaluation of socio-economic factors limiting their market diffusion.
TRADITOM has achieved the following results:

1. The project assembled the largest collection of European Traditional Tomato varieties by requesting seeds from dispersed seed banks, research laboratories and farmers associations. The current collection exceeds 1800 different varieties (500 more than initially planned). Passport data referring to the regions of cultivation have been collected and a website repository including detailed information and materials has been established.

2. The assessment of the genotypic and phenotypic variability in TRADITOM has been completed for 1691 non-redundant varieties. Valuable information has been obtained for 141 quantitative and 43 qualitative characteristics covering interests of farmers, breeders, food technologists and consumers. The large extent of variability identified substantiates the value of TRADITOM for a variety of applications ranging from selecting varieties based on traits of interest (e.g. fruit size, shape, colour, productivity, post-harvest behaviour, etc.) to its use in variety protection, detection of duplicated varieties, etc. The effect of environmental and cultivation conditions in the expression of those traits has also been analysed in trials involving almost 32,000 plants and their fruit (4 limited-stress conditions tested in 12 different locations).

3. In terms of improvement, the introduction of disease resistance genes (DRG) in 422 new F1 hybrids has revealed which traditional traits are conserved and which ones are lost depending on the specific cross. In total >1691 varieties, 422F1 and >28BC breeding lines have been evaluated. In close collaboration between academic and industrial partners, we identified the best materials and crosses to increase the resilience of traditional tomatoes while maintaining their traditional flavour. Identification of genes flanking DRG with negative effects on quality prompted us to reduce the size of the introgression to remove any negative linkage effects. This strategy has been proven effective in TRADITOM and new derived varieties are currently used by farmers.

4. Valorisation was possible by first optimizing the most powerful metabolite profiling platform so far for a single crop (>700 metabolites identified). It was then used to profile the health and flavour metabolite complement of a core set of TRADITOM varieties (11,124 samples analysed). The improved set of health and flavour metabolites has been used to define the varieties that will represent different combinations of those metabolites and eventually be preferred by different types of consumers. In addition, we evaluated consumer preferences, postharvest behaviour as well as socioeconomic factors that restrict the commercialization of traditional tomatoes. This ‘valorisation’ has already been used in case studies in TRADITOM leading to quality certificates and to address the needs of consumers and restaurateurs.

5. TRADITOM involved representatives of all stakeholders from growers, breeders and scientists to food experts, cooks, consumers, etc. The joint activities included active participation in research and technical work, discussions and dissemination of results. Partners published their work in multiple papers, participated in international conferences, local food fairs and training workshops with farmers. The consortium involved the public by informing about the vision and mission of the project via our website, social media, press releases or interviews.
TRADITOM has resulted in the most comprehensive exploration of traditional European tomato varieties so far. This exploration has been done shoulder to shoulder with traditional farmers in the main cultivation areas in the EU Mediterranean countries while information has been centralized in the TRADITOM project website. This represents an unprecedented level of information of tomato resources with important implications not only for scientific classification, origin and diversification of the local varieties but also to help defining what makes a local variety so special or different from another and what varieties could be of interest to grow or use further. Again, due to the participative research in TRADITOM, this close interaction between end-users and the actual producers of the information is producing a very positive impact in the way traditional farmers see scientific research, and vice-versa how scientists see traditional farming.

By using knowledge in the TRADITOM consortium about genes and gene regions important to maintain organoleptic quality, we have developed prototype varieties carrying disease resistances: F1 lines are currently selected by farmers (available through the seed partner) and Back Cross materials were initiated in collaboration with farmers that may satisfy both producers and consumers.

In summary, TRADITOM has achieved its objective to provide farmers and other stakeholders in the tomato and food fields with a scientifically sound information platform and new materials with increased resilience - all of which are positively impacting traditional tomato growers by increasing their competitiveness and thus giving a new push to traditional varieties with impact on consumers. Success of TRADITOM is expected to impact other traditional crops as it can serve as a flagship demonstrating the benefits of joint participative research.
TRADITOM facts & figures