ZJU scientists report new progress in carotenoid biofortification in tomato products

2022-05-10 Global Communications

Tomatoes are one of the most important vegetables, and China is the largest tomato producer in the world. In recent years, climate change and resource shortages have constituted new challenges to the tomato industry. With the improvement of living standards and health awareness, consumers have an increasing demand for high quality tomatoes. However, the current tomato industry has encountered a series of problems, such as insufficient innovation in germplasm, intensive cultivation, storage and processing management, which have, to some extent, hindered the high-quality, efficient and sustainable development of the tomato industry in China.

As tomatoes usually soften rapidly after ripening, the traditional hybridization method crossing with ripened mutants are mainly aimed at creating storable and transportable varieties as well as harvesting tomatoes before they are fully ripe in order to extend the shelf life, without considering the overall decline in the sensory and nutritional quality.

As a main source of natural pigments, carotenoids and carotenoid-derived volatile compounds are associated with the sensory, nutritional and flavor quality of tomato products. The human body cannot synthesize lycopene, which is the most abundant carotenoid composition in ripe tomato fruits, so the acceptable daily intakes of carotenoids are beneficial to human health. Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, and the intake of lycopene from tomatoes accounts for about 80% of lycopene from our daily diet. Carotenoid biofortification in tomato products is an effective approach to fight carotenoid deficiency worldwide.

The research team led by Prof. WANG Qiaomei at the Zhejiang University College of Agriculture and Biotechnology published an article entitled “Carotenoid biofortification in tomato products along whole agro-food chain from field to fork” in Trends in Food Science & Technology.


The metabolism of carotenoid in tomato fruits along with the whole agro-food chain.


In this paper, Prof. WANG Qiaomei et al. proposed a promising strategy to manage the tomato industry along the whole agro-food chain. Firstly, carotenoids-enriched tomato cultivars can be bred via classic hybridization, molecular mark assisted breeding, or genetic engineering and genome editing approach. Secondly, suitable cultivation methods and environmental conditions should be adopted in response to global adverse weather for carotenoid improvement in the pre-harvest production period. Finally, harvesting at an appropriate stage and proper postharvest handlings during the process of storage, transportation, marketing and processing are also effective ways to maximize carotenoid retention.

Regulatory network of carotenoid metabolism and sustainable managements for carotenoid improvement in tomato products along the whole agro-food chain. 

In the future, carotenoid biofortification along the whole agro-food chain of tomatoes should receive more attention in terms of interdisciplinary research, advanced technologies and industrial demands. For example, AI can be used to predict the demands and the changes in global climate change, and the CRISPR system can be applied to tomato breeding. Multi-omics analysis can be used to establish the correlation between the formation of tomato fruit quality and carotenoid metabolism. In addition, utilization of existing information pertaining to tomato crops, along with novel methods and opportunities is vital in the field of tomato biofortification. Moreover, some approaches in the preharvest period, such as using circular exploitation of resources, implementing green cultivation practices, and utilizing emerging technologies to reduce costs and protect the environment, are underway to produce sustainable carotenoid-enriched products.