Agricultural and FoodNature Collection

Engineering plants for vertical farms

Rapid customization of Solanaceae fruit crops for urban agriculture

Compact, early-fruiting ‘triple-determinate’ tomato and groundcherry plants suitable for vertical farming are produced using genome editing.


Abstract: Cultivation of crops in urban environments might reduce the environmental impact of food production1,2,3,4. However, lack of available land in cities and a need for rapid crop cycling, to yield quickly and continuously, mean that so far only lettuce and related ‘leafy green’ vegetables are cultivated in urban farms5. New fruit varieties with architectures and yields suitable for urban farming have proven difficult to breed1,5. We identified a regulator of tomato stem length (SlER) and devised a trait-stacking strategy to combine mutations for condensed shoots, rapid flowering (SP5G) and precocious growth termination (SP). Application of our strategy using one-step CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing restructured vine-like tomato plants into compact, early yielding plants suitable for urban agriculture. Field data confirmed that yields were maintained, and we demonstrated cultivation in indoor farming systems. Targeting the same stem length regulator alone in groundcherry, another Solanaceae plant, also enabled engineering to a compact stature. Our approach can expand the repertoire of crops for urban agriculture.

Nature Biotechnology volume 38pages182–188(2020)


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