Breeding for the Dynamic Processing Tomato Market

Expert Insights
Processing Tomato Main Image

Across the globe, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables consumed. They’re grown in many ways, including high technology greenhouses, protected tunnels, and in open fields. Processing tomatoes have different requirements than those destined for fresh markets. At Syngenta, we’re committed to meeting the diverse needs of the tomato processing industry, including the growers, processors, distributors, and consumers.

These demands go beyond yield potential, and Syngenta researchers are delivering solutions.

Processing Tomatoes Differ from Fresh Market  

Tomatoes grown for processing and fresh market are very different varieties. This means, processing professionals are looking for more than yield and pest and disease resistance. Some of the traits they’re looking for vary depend on the final product, classified into three main export categories: paste, canned tomatoes and tomato sauces, and ketchup.

Researchers at Syngenta do provide grower and agronomic traits that support yield and pest and disease resistances to meet processing industry supply needs, but that’s not all.

“Processors have their own requirements depending on the final product and their personal brand,” said Fadoua Aouiche, Regional Portfolio Manager, Determinate Tomato. “For example, some have specific requirements like the brix (sugar content), Ph, juice, etc. So, it is a balance. If a tomato has good yield and resistance, but doesn’t have the other traits a processor needs, they won’t buy as much from that grower. Each profile needed in a tomato is ultimately defined by the final product.”  

For example, in canned whole tomato processing industry, the elongated shape, peeling-ease, and firmness are key traits.  

“In addition, some processors have their own brands, and are therefore looking for more differentiation in terms of offerings, creating an increase demand on specific processing traits” Aouiche said.

Developing Products That Meet Demands  

Agronomically, there continues to be a demand for processing tomatoes with strong genetic resistances. For example, tomato spotted wilt virus can be a problem for all types of tomatoes, whether grown in a greenhouse or in the field, according to South Dakota State University.  

Pressure from fusarium race 3 and other diseases remain high, and the best protection against these diseases is genetic resistance. Plus, water shortages and droughts in recent years in some areas of the world have created new demands on processing tomato varieties.

Harvesting comes also with its own set of specific requirements for processing tomatoes like specific plant structure and the concentrated harvest. This requires also varieties with firmness and thick skin to endure the bulk transportation from the fields to the processing plants.  

Climate change and increasing temperatures globally lead to water shortage and drought in the main areas of processing tomato, meaning water availability becomes a big challenge. We’re looking for varieties that are tolerant to drought with short cycle to provide growers with more solutions.  

At Syngenta, we take these requirements into account when designing our breeding programs to develop processing varieties with high productivity, strong package of resistance traits, adaptable to environmental conditions, and that meet needs of growers and the processing industry.

Innovations for the Future  

Through the use of genotyping and phenotyping, the variety development process is more accurate and faster than ever. Using molecular markers, researchers can take the most desirable traits for growers and processors, and create new varieties to fit the end use needs of processing tomatoes.  

Syngenta Vegetable Seeds continues to invest in the processing tomato program, ensuring they have a competitive end product that fits the variety of requirements from processors. With a global breeding program focused on developing products with genetic resistance to disease and pests, researchers at Syngenta Vegetable Seeds use the latest technology in world-class facilities to develop new the products growers need to meet the demands of today and the future.