While many people are still trying to figure out whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable, scientists have been busy creating a hardier tomato. Working with plant biologists at the University of California (Davis campus), U of T researchers have genetically engineered a tomato plant that thrives in salty irrigation water – a discovery that may solve one of agriculture’s greatest dilemmas. While crop irrigation has freed farmers from the uncertainties of Mother Nature, it has also increased salinity in soils and water by depositing soluble salts in the fields. These salts eventually decrease a crop’s vigour and productivity. “Since this type of environmental stress is one of the most serious factors limiting crop productivity, this innovation will have significant implications for agriculture worldwide,” says Eduardo Blumwald, a botany professor at UC Davis, who led the research team that discovered the salt-tolerance gene. The research, much of which was conducted at U of T, continues at the UC Davis department of pomology. This study by Blumwald and Hong-Xia Zhang, a post-doctoral fellow at U of T, was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.