Breeding Tomatoes for Attractiveness to Pollinating Insects

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  • 1 Horticultural Science Dept., Cornell Univ., NY Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456.

Bumblebees are commercially used to improve fruit set of greenhouse tomatoes, but they seldom pollinate tomatoes outdoors if not confined in a no-choice situation. Bumblebees frequently pollinated L. peruvianum and other self-incompatible (SI) Lycopersicon species, but not tomato plants, in the field at Geneva, N.Y. Bumblebees were very efficient pollinators of Sl Lycopersicon species, averaging only 5 s to pollinate one flower and fly to the next. Transfer of this attractiveness to pollinating insects to the tomato could improve fruit set of tomatoes grown in greenhouses with introduced bumblebees. It could also improve fruit set in the field, especially when conditions are poor for pollination. It has potential use for producing F1 hybrid seed, but associated problems make hybrid tomato seed production by insect pollination impractical now. Attractiveness to pollinating insects is being introgressed from L. peruvianum, L. hirsutum, and L. pennellii in the tomato breeding program at Geneva, N.Y. Several floral characteristics were found to be of importance for attracting pollinators, including the reaction to ultraviolet light. Flowers of SI species absorbed UV, whereas tomato flowers reflected UV light.

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