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New Jersey Cherry and Grape Tomato Variety Trials

By Dorothy Noble

The Tomato Magazine
April 2006

The market for cherry and grape tomatoes keeps growing.

The popularity of grape tomatoes especially has surged in many regions. However, limited seed availability for ‘Santa,’ the first tomato marketed as a grape tomato, persists. Consequently, tomato breeders have introduced other varieties of grape tomatoes. New varieties of cherry tomatoes continue to be developed as well.

Growers in the sandy soil, tomato-producing areas of New Jersey are renowned for their tasty Jersey tomatoes. These Garden State producers also enjoy certain climate and location advantages for access to the sizeable Northeast markets.

New Jersey growers would like cherry and grape varieties similar to ‘Santa,’ but with a more determinate plant type.

Dr. Wesley Kline, agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County, N.J., shared the results of his fresh market cherry and grape tomato variety trials at the recent 2006 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, Pa.

In 2003, Kline studied 23 promising lines at Bald Eagle Farms, Harrisonville, N.J. The varieties ranged from open pollinated heirlooms and heirloom sports to hybrids recently developed specifically for the commercial market. A follow-up trial in 2005 repeated three of the varieties and added nine.

Plant habit, earliness and fruit characteristics were evaluated to determine the feasibility of producing small-fruited tomato varieties for the wholesale and roadside markets.

The seeds were sown in 72-cell trays with tomato-formulated peat-vermiculite media drenched in Admire. In 2003, the seeds were started on April 7. After a 10-day delay because of wet conditions, on May 19 the transplants were set 18 inches apart on raised beds with five-foot centers. In 2005, the varieties were transplanted in the field on May 10 and spaced 24 inches in the row. According to soil tests recommendations, four applications of NPK at 40 lbs./A were used through the drip irrigation system. In the last application,
2 lbs./A boron was added. Prior to bedding, nitrogen at 65 lbs./A was applied.

Black plastic mulch was used both years. Depending on the variety, 4- to 6-foot stakes were placed. Plants were pruned to three shoots below the main fork.

Fruits were hand harvested on July 30 in the 2003 trial and July 18 in 2005 to determine early yield. After separating into usable and culls, any major defects were recorded. Cracking accounted for the most culls, with some varieties exhibiting yellow eye, small fruit, and green shoulders.

Fruits were harvested three additional times in August and finally on Sept. 9, 2003. At the August 7 harvest, a sample of 20 representative fruit from each plot was used to evaluate fruit size and external and internal characteristics. In the 2005 trial, the tomatoes were first harvested July 18, and the last of seven total harvests was made on Aug. 30. Some fruit remained on the plants after these final harvests; most of these varieties could continue producing until frost.

Plant height and vigor; fruit firmness, internal color and white tissue were ranked. The percent marketable yield plus the total marketable yield were calculated in 2003.
Although many varieties possessed desirable attributes, Kline pointed to those that showed the most overall promise for New Jersey production. Growers should note that variations in different seasons as well as growing conditions could alter results.

Of the red cherry varieties, ‘Favorita’ rated very good for color, appearance and packout characteristics. The flavorful, 0.45 oz. medium firm fruit explodes in the mouth. Its vigorous plant reached 7.5 feet. The medium large plant yielded 490 lbs./A early, with almost 33,992 lbs./A for the season. Marketable yield was 96 percent.

Seminis’ unnamed, red cherry variety, ‘S 151496,’ showed excellent color, appearance and packout. Medium firm, its 0.49 oz. fruit had excellent sweet flavor. The early yields were 443 lbs./A, while the season yield was 28,327 lbs./A from the 7.7 feet plant. Its marketable yield measured 97 percent in the 2003 trial and 93 percent in the 2005 study.
‘ Snow White,’ a medium soft, excellently colored yellow cherry produced fruit weighing 0.46 oz. The large vine stretched over 9 feet. The early yield count was 166 lbs./A, while the season yielded 18,667 lbs./A. ‘Snow White’ had a marketable yield of 92 percent.

‘ Cupid’ had good color and appearance, excellent firmness and packout. The flavor of the 0.56 oz. red fruits was very good. Its vine topped 8 feet. Early yields numbered 469 lbs./A with season yields of 28,139 lbs./A. The marketable yield was calculated at 97 percent.

‘ St. Nick’ exhibited very good red color and appearance, excellent firmness and packout. Its vine went to 8.7 feet. The 0.40 oz. fruit had good flavor. The early yield amounted to 380 lbs./A, and the season yield reached 22,444 lbs./A. This grape tomato had a marketable yield of 90 percent.

‘ Tami G’ demonstrated very good red color, appearance and firmness. Packout quality was excellent. The flavor rated good. It showed some size variability in the 0.31 oz. fruit. The very large vines, 8.8 feet high, produced 362 lbs./A early with 22,398 lbs./A for the season. The marketable yield for ‘Tami G’ measured 92 percent.

‘ Jolly Elf’ had good color and appearance and excellent firmness. The 0.32 oz. red fruits had some yellow eye and cracking. Flavor was good, and the determinate vine was medium in size. The early yield count was 399 lbs./A, and the season yield numbered 20,075 lbs./A. Marketable yield was 79 percent in the first trial and appeared to be 83 percent in 2005.
‘ Sweet Olive’ has a determinate vine. It produced 0.30 oz. fruits with very good flavor, red color, appearance and firmness. Some yellow eye and cracking were present. The early yields reached 902 lbs./A with a season yield of 27,874 lbs./A. The marketable yield was 85 percent.

‘ Smarty’ showed good color, excellent appearance and very good firmness. The compact indeterminate vine produced sweet flavored 0.25 oz. fruits. Some were small. (Because this variety was not available in 2003, yield comparisons cannot be made. However, in the 2005 trial its percentage of marketable yield was observed as 85 percent.)

Large Grape and Saladette
The large red grape, ‘Juliet’ at 0.88 oz. exhibited very good color and appearance with excellent packout quality. Its large vines yielded medium firm fruits with good flavor early. The early yield amounted to 489 lbs./A, and the yield for the season was 36,197 lbs./A. ‘Juliet’ had a marketable yield of 90 percent.

The saladette, ‘Cherry Blossom,’ weighed close to 1 oz. Its round, red, medium firm fruit had very good color, appearance and packout. The 4.5 feet determinate plants yielded 473 lbs./A early and 41,590 lbs./A for the season. Its marketable yield was calculated at 80 percent.

The varieties used in 2003 were BHN 268, BHN YC1, Camelia, Cherry Blossom, Cherry Brandywine, Cupid F, Dr. Carolyn, Favorita, Garden Peach, Isis Candy, Jolly Elf, Juane Flamme, Juliet, Morning Light, Red Light, S 151496, St. Nick, Sweet Million, Sweet Olive, Sweet 100, Sun Cherry, Snow White, and Tami G. Cupid, Jolly Elf and S 151496 were again studied in 2005, along with Green Grape, NC 042, NC 0463, S-9137, S-9149, Smarty, Sunsugar and Sweet Baby Girl. The tomato shapes included round, deep round, elongated, pear, cherry, large cherry, oblate and grape. Red, yellow, orange and golden colors were represented. The fruit weight ranged from 0.25 oz. to 1 oz.

The seeds were obtained from a number of sources, including BHN Seeds, Harris Moran, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Marianna’s, North Carolina State, Rupp Seeds, Sakata, Seedway, Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Change, Seminis, Siegers Seeds, Stokes and Tomato Growers Supply Co. These sources all have websites.

© 2006 Columbia Publishing

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