Wednesday, October 3, 2018

This Wild Plant Could be the Next Strawberry


      Ever heard of a ground cherry? This fruit is unknown mostly due to the fact that it is wild, and belongs to the group of orphan crops. It is compared to the size of a marble. The small berry is said to have a tropical taste and is native to central and south america. The plant has yet to be a house hold name because it is difficult to grow in mass and does not have a long shelf life. But, can be bought at some small farmers markets. It's relatives are the tomatillo and orange fruits. Zachary Lippman, Joyce Eck and colleagues at the Boyce Thompson Institute have begun research and the domestication of the ground cherry. Their goal is to improve fruit size, plant shape and flower production in the matter of years. Lippman states that he "firmly believes with the right approach, the ground cherry could become a major berry crop." 
     If the ground cherry's genome can be edited to domesticate the berry, there would be more options for consumers. Allowing more options for the farmers. Ground cherries are drought tolerant, which is a factor that makes them appealing. Lippman and Joyce studied tomatoes to know/ understand what traits are desirable, to help them understand what they are looking at in the ground cherry to change what they want to change for domestication. They figured out how to use the genome editing tool CRISPR. By understanding how to use CRISPR Lippman and Joyce have manipulated the ground cherry traits, such as its weedy shape becoming more compact. They want to fine-tune the fruits color and flavor. Lippmann notes that traditional breeding from the process for domesticating plants will still be necessary, and is not sure when he berry will hit the market. I like this article because it is introducing something in a sense new, by explaining how they can alter the genetics to allow it a longer shelf life, and will bring another options in the markets by taking something wild and domesticating it.  

1 comment:

  1. I was excited to comment on this article because one of my professors brought in ground cherries last year! Obviously, as they are without genetically modifying it, they don't sound appealing to farmers or consumers. If they are difficult to grow farmers don't want to waste resources or time, and if they don't have a good shelf life consumers won't want them. Editing the genome, like you explained would provide more options for everyone involved and the berry would be more successful here in the US.