Researchers from Spain’s University of Seville have demonstrated that tomato plants require substantially less water than previously thought, opening up the possibilities for cultivating this staple ingredient. But it gets better: the study found that reducing the amount of water used to grow tomatoes actually increased the level of carotenoids, red fat-soluble pigments that provide these fruits with protective health benefits. That’s right, watering less can yield more nutritious tomatoes.
“Consumers demand healthier food so that they can live longer and better. But it’s not only a matter of increasing life expectancy. It’s also about making sure that we are healthy in our old age”, says Antonio J. Meléndez, a teacher in the Pharmacy Faculty at the University of Seville.
The study primarily analyzed varietals of cherry tomato, adjusting variables like time of year grown, temperature and watering during different phases of growth. The increase in carotenoid levels proves promising for scientists researching how to grow more nutrient-dense plant-based foods using as few natural resources as possible.