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USDA Releases New Tomatoes With Increased Beta Carotene

By Tara Weaver
November 2, 1998

BELTSVILLE, Md., Nov. 2—U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have released three new tomato breeding lines that contain about 10 to 25 times more beta carotene than typical tomatoes.

USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist John R. Stommel developed the new high beta-carotene tomato lines--97L63, 97L66 and 97L97--for use in processing into paste, juices and sauces. High beta-carotene cherry and beefsteak type market tomatoes will also be released as specialty tomatoes for the fresh market.

“Soon consumers may be able to get abundant beta-carotene not only from carrots but also from tomatoes,” said Stommel, a plant geneticist with ARS’ Vegetable Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.

The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential nutrient that aids in clear vision, bone growth, tooth development and reproduction.

Stommel said a major food producer is already using material derived from the ARS germplasm to develop nutritionally enhanced products.

“Beta-carotene content for these tomatoes averages 57.6, 55.1 and 55.5 micrograms per gram of fresh weight for 97L63, 97L66 and 97L97 respectively,” said Stommel. “Typical tomatoes contain about 2 to 5 micrograms per gram fresh weight.”

97L63 and 97L66 are adapted for California and the eastern and midwestern U.S. The fruits are firm and crack resistant. Tomatoes that split before harvesting are susceptible to fruit rot, which can cause large crop losses.

Breeding line 97L97 is adapted for eastern and midwestern production and does not do as well under California growing conditions.

The United States is number two in fresh and processed tomato production worldwide, with Florida and California the top-producing states.

Scientific Contact: John Stommel, plant geneticist, Vegetable Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, B-010A, BARC-West, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville MD 20705, phone (301) 504- 5583, fax (301) 504-5555,