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Tomato Bunches for Mars, Maybe

Gene-edited tomatoes that grow in bunches like grapes could someday be a Mars kitchen staple, Popular Mechanics reports.

Researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and their colleagues used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool to target three tomato genes: the SELF PRUNING (SP) and SP5G genes that influence plant growth and reproduction and the SIER gene that affect stem length. As they report in Nature Biotechnology this week, the researchers found that altering these genes led to tomato plants that were more compact.

"They have a great small shape and size, they taste good, but of course that all depends on personal preference," CSHL's Zach Lippman, the senior author of the paper, says in a statement.

Compact, bushy plants like this could be useful for urban agriculture or even for other, more challenging growing spots, Popular Mechanics adds. "I can tell you that NASA scientists have expressed some interest in our new tomatoes," Lippman says.