WUR joins new EU innovation project to increase resilience and quality of tomato varieties

Published on
October 6, 2020

WUR-researchers will participate in the new EU research initiative HARNESSTOM. In this project breeding companies, scientists and farmers join forces to increase resilience and quality of tomato varieties.

Tomato is a paradigm of crop domestication: a widely cultivated and consumed vegetable but with reduced genetic diversity and therefore highly vulnerable to emerging diseases and climate change. Fortunately, tomato is rich in genetic resources and lots of information is available to overcome those difficulties. In the new EU project HARNESSTOM, scientists and breeding experts are united over the next four years to develop more resilient tomatoes with better qualities.

Accessing genetic resources

HARNESSTOM aims to demonstrate that an increasing use of Genetic Resources is key for food safety and security and can lead to innovation and benefit for all stakeholders. By capitalizing on the large effort done recently in several EU-funded projects to connect phenotypes/genotypes in a large number of accessions from different germplasm banks and academia, HARNESSTOM will first collect, centralize and normalize this wealth of information in a way that is easily searchable and displayed in a user-friendly manner adapted to different type of users.

Second, HARNESSTOM will develop four prebreeding programs addressing the major challenges of the field:

  1. introducing resistances against major emerging diseases,
  2. improving tomato tolerance to climate change,
  3. improving quality and
  4. increasing resilience in traditional European tomato by participatory breeding.

Increasing speed and efficiency in prebreeding

An additional goal is to increase speed and efficiency in prebreeding which is needed to be able to respond to the emerging challenges in a timely and effective manner. Joint leadership of both academia and industry in each of the work packages, and the participation of two NGOs representing different stakeholders, guarantees that the results of the project will have an impact in industry innovation and also in the society. An efficient management and outreach and communication platform is also in place to make sure the project runs smoothly and the interests of all stakeholders are protected.

Work package of WR

In the project, Prof. dr. Yuling Bai (WUR Plant Breeding) will lead one Work Package, which is entitled “Improving resistance against (emerging) diseases” and is aimed at the characterization of novel tomato resistance genes in wild tomato relatives and their implementation in breeding programs. Together with Dr. Mathieu Joosten (WUR Phytopathology), they will tackle the leaf mould disease caused by new strains of the biotrophic fungus Cladosporium fulvum


The project HARNESSTOM  “harnessing the value of tomato genetic resources for now and the future” is a four-years collaborative project, which starts on October 01, 2020. It has a total budget of €8,07 million of which the Horizon 2020 European Union Research and Innovation will fund €7,04million and the participating companies and the Taiwan Government will cover the rest. The project coordinator, Professor Antonio Granell (Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC, Spain), has brought together an interdisciplinary team of experts from 22 partnering institutions in seven countries. The innovation project partnership includes SMEs and large breeding companies, tech companies, NGOs, farmers associations and academic institutions.