Tuesday 27 September 2016

DNA tests could ketchup with contest tomato 'plants'

Published 08/09/2015 | 18:39

Harrogate Flower Show Director Nick Smith extracts a sample from a Gigantomo tomato
Harrogate Flower Show Director Nick Smith extracts a sample from a Gigantomo tomato
Organisers are running tests to make sure winning fruits are from the correct strain

A flower show is using DNA technology to ensure a £1,000 giant tomato prize is not won by a cheating grower.

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Organisers of the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show have responded to competitors' concerns that an unscrupulous gardener might sneak in a rogue variety of tomato to the championship.

The show is running a Gigantomo class, with a £1,000 top prize sponsored by a mail order plant specialist, which means entries must be from that strain of the plant.

So organisers will use Dutch specialists to DNA test plants to make sure the entries are what they claim to be.

The winner could scoop a further £5,000 if the heaviest fruit sets a new world record.

The new class for Gigantomo tomatoes, a beefsteak variety developed for its huge red fruits, was launched in January with the final weigh-in on Friday.

Show director Nick Smith said: "Giant veg growing is great fun and tremendously popular with our visitors, but it also has a serious side, especially with such a big prize at stake.

"When experienced growers contacted us to express concern about making sure that the new class for Gigantomo would feature only specimens from that variety, we set out to find a way of being as certain as we possibly can that the winner has the right pedigree."

Harrogate's giant veg competition was launched in 2011 to celebrate the centenary of the show's organisers, the North of England Horticultural Society.

Exhibition tables groan with produce in 13 heaviest or longest classes, including cabbages, marrows, parsnips, carrots, beetroots, potatoes and leeks.

Last year, two new world records and a new British record were set at the competition.

The Guinness record for the heaviest tomato stands at 7.7lb.

Press Association

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