Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Mass-Producing the Tomato Tree
Researchers in the Ramat Negev Research and Development Institute hope to bring the “tomato tree” to the mass market. They are currently conducting an experiment that could make the tree easier to grow commercially in Israel.
The tomato tree bears fruits which resemble tomatoes, although they are not true tomatoes. It is native to the Andes mountains in South America. Its fruits are currently very popular in New Zealand and in many countries in South America.
Researcher Shabtai Cohen explained that the “tree tomato” has a sweet flavor, somewhat like that of a Guava fruit. It is rich in vitamins A and C, and can be eaten raw or used in recipes that call for tomato.
The “tomato tree” could prove a good crop for Israeli farmers for two reasons, Ramat Negev scientists said. For one, it requires relatively little manpower to grow; for another, its popularity abroad could make it a lucrative investment.
The current experiments are aimed to find the best way to grow the trees commercially in Israel, and to determine whether the tree could be successfully watered using salt water, thus reducing costs and saving water, which is in short supply due to a years-long drought.
Researchers believe farmers will be able to grow from 100 to 200 tomato trees per dunam, and that each tree will produce an average of 60 kilograms of fruit.
The latest findings regarding the tomato tree – along with many other advancements in agriculture – will be presented at the 21st Agro Expo in Tel Aviv, which is to be held on March 2 and 3. This year's expo will focus in part on the world food crisis, and on ways in which new technologies can be used to improve the situation.