A single substance in a melon can be the reason why one melon is tastier than another. But try finding that substance. Researchers at Plant Research International can do just that with their ‘metabolomics platform,’ a series of advanced measuring devices. They can use it to improve the quality of products or accelerate the breeding process.
With the help of taste panels, it is possible to establish quite quickly whether a vegetable, a fruit or a processed product tastes or smells good. But the reasons behind the verdict are not usually known. Plants contain hundreds of substances which can all impact on the quality of the end product. Take primary metabolites, such as amino acids or glucose, and secondary metabolites, such as caffeine in coffee or capsaicin in chilli peppers.
Measuring hundreds of substances at the same timeThe metabolomics platform is therefore a real boon. It is a series of devices which can measure hundreds of substances at a time. A little bit of juice from a plant, fruit or product is enough. The platform separates the juice out into all its constituent substances. By comparing varieties or products with each other, our researchers identify the substances which are important for the taste or the smell of a product. They then look for genetic markers which are responsible for that specific substance.
Speeding up breeding
In this way, our researchers can substantially speed up the breeding of a variety. An example might be a target variety of melon that tastes good and is resistant to a particular disease. The breeder crosses a tasty non-resistant variety with a less tasty, more resistant one. The breeder will want to discard the offspring which are not tasty as quickly as possible.With the metabolomics platform, researchers can quickly detect the offspring which contain non-tasty flavours so that the breeder can immediately discard them. That speeds up the breeding process by one or two years, thus saving costs.