Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is the world’s most important vegetable in terms of cultivated area and harvested volume. Ten countries account for 70% of the world’s tomato acreage: China, India, Nigeria, Turkey, Egypt, USA, Iran, Russia, Italy and Mexico. The annual global production value is around USD 92 billion.
Tomato and its wild relatives are native to South America. Two separate domestication “events” have been proposed: one taking place in Peru and the other one in Mexico. Tomato was probably introduced to Spain by Hernán Cortés after the capture of Tenochtitlan in 1521, and thence taken to Naples, changing Italian food forever. The domestication of tomato was furthered in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, resulting in the crop as it is known today. From England, tomatoes were spread to the Middle East and to North America.
One of the most important wild tomato collections in the world is held at the Tomato Genetics Resource Center in Davis, California. Its accessions are listed in Genesys, together with other important tomato collections located in the USA, Taiwan, Russia and Spain.
Tomatoes breeders have greatly benefited from the wild genepool of the crop. More than fifty traits have been successfully transferred from wild relatives to commercial tomato varieties, including higher content of solids (a highly desirable trait in the food industry), increased tolerance to drought, and longer shelf life.