Enhancing the nutritional quality of tomatoes

Increasing ascorbic acid and iron levels in tomatoes to enhance human nutrition and plant abiotic stress tolerance


The predicted increase of global warming poses a large risk for crop productivity, even in protected cropping systems. Tomatoes have a narrow range of optimal growing temperatures and heat stress can limit fruit yield as well as affect fruit development. Fluctuations of yields caused by unpredictable heatwaves have an impact on the food supply chain, as over- estimation of UK supply necessitates costly imports.

Studies have shown that even modest increases in vitamin C content and iron levels can help tomato crops cope better with these stresses. Iron is a key trace-element essential for human health, however in the UK, the average iron in-take levels in females are below the recommended levels.

By combining vitamin C and iron biofortification, this project hopes to result in the production of nutrient-dense tomatoes and enhance iron bioavailability for healthy diets. All while improving the productivity and sustainability of UK tomato production and lowering emissions and reducing waste.

Project aims

  • Minimise waste fruit volumes by enhancing the ascorbic acid content in tomatoes. 
  • Improve resource use efficiency and sustainability - traditional iron (Fe)-fertilisers will be substituted with Fe-based nanoparticles, which have a higher absorption rate and will  improve nutrient use efficiency in protected horticulture. 
  • Increase productivity  using iron-based nanoparticles  expected to significantly increase plant  height, leaf number and area, shoot and root weights and yield of greenhouse-grown tomatoes
  • Improve resilience of food production by improving  in unpredictable heatwaves.
  • Improve nutritional security by offering  tomatoes enriched with ascorbic acid and Fe. In the UK more than 50% of females have Fe intakes lower than the  Recommended Reference Intake. 
  • Help tomato industry to move towards net-zero carbon emissions  by improving productivity and resource

NIAB contact

Dr Eleftheria Stavridou













Project timing

May 2022 - November 2024