Dissection of genetic and environmental factors involved in tomato organoleptic quality

Carli, Paola; Barone, Amalia; Fogliano, Vincenzo; Frusciante, Luigi; Ercolano, Maria R.
January 2011
BMC Plant Biology;2011, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p58
Academic Journal
Background: One of the main tomato breeding objectives is to improve fruit organoleptic quality. However, this task is made somewhat challenging by the complex nature of sensory traits and the lack of efficient selection criteria. Sensory quality depends on numerous factors, including fruit colour, texture, aroma, and composition in primary and secondary metabolites. It is also influenced by genotypic differences, the nutritional regime of plants, stage of ripening at harvest and environmental conditions. In this study, agronomic, biochemical and sensory characterization was performed on six Italian heirlooms grown in different environmental conditions. Result: We identified a number of links among traits contributing to fruit organoleptic quality and to the perception of sensory attributes. PCA analysis was used to highlight some biochemical, sensory and agronomic discriminating traits: this statistical test allowed us to identify which sensory attributes are more closely linked to environmental conditions and those, instead, linked to the genetic constitution of tomato. Sweetness, sourness, saltiness and tomato flavour are not only grouped in the same PCA factor, but also result in a clear discrimination of tomato ecotypes in the three different fields. The three different traditional varieties cluster on the basis of attributes like juiciness, granulosity, hardness and equatorial diameter, and are therefore more closely related to the genetic background of the cultivar. Conclusion: This finding suggests that a different method should be undertaken to improve sensory traits related to taste perception and texture. Our results might be used to ascertain in what direction to steer breeding in order to improve the flavour characteristics of tomato ecotypes.


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