Heirloom vs. Hybrid Tomatoes on Plastic Mulch
The Tomato Magazine
The heirloom tomato market has taken off, according
to William H. Tietjen of the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension,
Warren County, N.J.,
but not without its challenges.
One is the lack of any disease resistance, the researcher told those
the Empire State Fruit & Vegetable Expo Tomato, Pepper and Eggplant Session
Feb. 15 in Syracuse, N.Y. Fungicides must be applies almost weekly.
Due to the fact that about 50 percent of the seed purchased fails to germinate,
extra seed must be purchased in order to come up with a productive stand, he
said. That, in itself, is costly.
Growers also must cope with plenty of heirloom quality problems, including cracks
that open the fruit up to disease organisms and uneven surfaces that frequently
are less than eye-appealing.
Field trials were conducted at the Rutgers Snyder Research and Extension Farm,
Pittstown, N.J., in 2003 and 2004, he told the group. Purpose was to compare
the yield of heirloom and hybrid tomato cultivars. The evaluation was funded
in part by a NJAES Program Enhancement Grant.
The hybrid commercial cultivars used were Florida 47, Florida 91, Floralina and
Sunbrite, Tietjen explained. Heirloom tomatoes were Rutgers, Mortgage Lifter,
Brandywine and Box Carl Willie.
Seeds were sown in early April in 200 cell trays containing peat vermiculite
media, he explained. The tomatoes were later transplanted in mid-May into 48
cell trays. The plants were planted in the field with a water wheel transplanter
on June 12, 2003, and June 16, 2004.
The 2003 plot received 50 lbs/acre of nitrogen preplant as well as 100 lbs/acre
of phosphorus; 100 lbs/acre of potassium also were disked into the soil, Tietjen
said. In 2004, the plot received preplant 50 lbs/acre of nitrogen and phosphorus
and 283 lbs of potassium disked into the soil. Soil pH was within the recommended
Beds on 6-foot centers were formed, and black mulch with a drip irrigation tube
was laid, the researcher explained. The tomatoes were planted in single rows
spaced 18 inches apart. Starter solution (10-52-10) at 1 lb/100 gallons of water
was added to the transplant water. The varieties were arranged in a randomized
block design with four replications.
No herbicides were applied preplant because of excessively wet soil in 2003.
Sencor DF at 0.33 lbs/acre was applied between the plastic beds after transplanting,
Tietjen said. In 2004, Devrinol 50DF (41 lbs/acre) was applied preplant followed
by Sencor DF between the rows. Gramoxone MAX 35SC was used to spot treat weeds.
Insects and diseases were controlled on a seven- to 10-day schedule using the
New Jersey commercial recommendations for tomatoes, the researcher said. Hybrid
tomato cultivars were supported by 4-foot stakes, and 8-foot stakes were used
for the heirloom tomatoes. On July 8, 2003, two to three suckers were hand removed
from all of the tomato plants. The tomatoes were trellised through the season
as growth progressed. Suckers were not removed in 2004.
Harvesting and Evaluation
The tomatoes were hand harvested on Aug. 22 and 29 and Sept. 5, 11, 17 and
24, 2003, and on Sept. 2, 14 and 27, and Oct. 12, 2004, Tietjen said. The
fruit was evaluated and weighted for total production and marketable yield.
Major defects were identified and recorded.
Early production data (Aug. 22 and 29, 2003) from the trial is summarized in
Table 1, the researcher said, adding a note of explanation that the “boxes/ac” is
based on 25 lb boxes.
“Excessive rainfall, cool temperatures and cloudy days held back ripening
of the fruit,” Tietjen said. “In September, rain check became a problem,
especially on plants with poor leaf cover. Catfacing and zippering were common
in the early harvest on all cultivars. Evaluation of marketable fruit was difficult,
since consumers of heirloom tomatoes are much more tolerant of defects.”
Mortgage Lifter produced the most marketable fruit in the first harvest, he
noted. However, with heavy rainfall, Mortgage Lifter developed moderate cracking.
Total production data from 2003 in summarized in
“Brandywine was the least productive of the heirloom tomatoes and had the
lowest amount of marketable fruit,” the researcher said. “The fruit
cracked severely from the frequent rains, and fruit quality decreased rapidly
as the season progressed. The size of Box Car Willie fruit was very variable.
Rutgers produced fruit of very good quality, but fruit size was very variable.”
Looking at the commercial hybrid tomatoes, Tietjen said all produced well except
Sunbrite. Catfacing and zippering were a major cause of cullage in the early
harvests. Rain check and radial cracking were severe on Sunbrite, which lacked
good leaf cover.
“Based on this trial, Mortgage Lifter was the most productive of the heirlooms,” he
noted. “Florida 47, Florida 91 and Floralina all produced well in 2003.”
Table 3 summarizes the data from the early harvest (Sept. 2 and 14, 2004).
Mortgage Lifter again produced the most marketable fruit in 2004 followed by
Sunbrite and Rutgers.
Total production for 2004 is summarized in Table 4. Florida 91 produced the
most marketable fruit again in 2004, Tietjen said. Brandywine was the least
productive heirloom in both years.
“Rutgers produced blemish-free fruit of variable size (most medium or smaller).
Box Car Willie also was very variable in size,” Tietjen told the group. “In
addition, Rutgers and Box Car Willie frequently retained stems that caused punctures
on other fruit during harvest. In 2004, Golden Girl VFNTA Hybrid was utilized
as a guard plant and the source of bacterial spot infections.
In his recommendations for heirloom tomatoes for New Jersey growers, Tietjen
suggested the following:
Heirloom (large fruit): Cherokee Purple (severe cracking when ripe-deleted
from 2006 Recs), Mortgage Lifter, Hawaiian Pineapple and Prudents Purple.
Heirloom (medium fruit): Eva Purple Ball, Arkansas Traveler, Box Car Willie,
Lemon Boy (a hybrid variety), Costoluto Genovese, Brandywine Red and Green
Zebra (small size, cracks easily on sides when ripe-deleted from 2006 Recs).
Heirloom (small fruit): Snow White and Yellow Pear.
Editor’s Note: William H. Tietjen’s presentation,
reported here, is based on a joint study with P.J. Nitzsche and W.L.
with the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension. Tietjen covers Warren
County; Nitzsche, Morris County, and Kline, Cumberland County. For more
www.rcre.rutgers.edu/tomato or contact Tietjen at (908) 475-6505, Tietjen@rcre.rutgers.edu.
Photos are courtesy of Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension.
© 2006 Columbia Publishing
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