Breeding Has Increased the Diversity of Cultivated Tomato in The Netherlands

Henk J. Schouten*, Yury Tikunov, Wouter Verkerke, Richard Finkers, Arnaud Bovy, Yuling Bai, Richard G.F. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


It is generally believed that domestication and breeding of plants has led to genetic erosion, including loss of nutritional value and resistances to diseases, especially in tomato. We studied the diversity dynamics of greenhouse tomato varieties in NW Europe, especially The Netherlands, over the last seven decades. According to the used SNP array, the genetic diversity was indeed very low during the 1960s, but is now eight times higher when compared to that dip. The pressure since the 1970s to apply less pesticides led to the introgression of many disease resistances from wild relatives, representing the first boost of genetic diversity. In Europe a second boost ensued, largely driven by German popular media who named poor tasting tomatoes Wasserbomben (water bombs). The subsequent collapse of Dutch tomato exports to Germany fueled breeding for fruit flavor, further increasing diversity since the 1990s. The increased diversity in composition of aroma volatiles observed starting from 1990s may reflect the efforts of breeders to improve fruit quality. Specific groups of aroma compounds showed different quantitative trend over the decades studied. Our study provides compelling evidence that breeding has increased the diversity of tomato varieties considerably since the 1970s.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1606
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019


  • breeding
  • diversity
  • introgressions
  • metabolomics
  • tomato varieties


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