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The Tomato Magazine
December 2006

Grape Tomato Variety Evaluation

University of Florida tomato researchers have a research project underway aimed at identifying the best grape tomato varieties on the market along with
optimal crop-specifi c N recommendations. Approximately 2,000 acres of grape tomatoes are grown in Florida, according to a report, “Research Update on
Grape Tomatoes: Varieties, Taste Test and Response to N Rates,” by Eric Simonne, Steve Sargent, Amy Simonne, David Studstill and Robert Hochmuth of the UF, IFAS, Horticultural Sciences Department, Gainesville, Fla.

A portion of Simonne’s presentation, given Sept. 6 during the Florida Tomato Institute in Naples, Fla., is reported here. Varieties Grape tomatoes are gaining in popularity among consumers because they can be eaten without being cut, are deep red in color and their flavor is intense and pleasant,” Simmone said. “Most grape tomatoes are of the ‘Santa’ variety and are marketed under the ‘Santa’ trade name. Because seed availability of ‘Santa’ is limited, many
grower are looking for a Santa-like variety.”

In the study reported, the researchers looked at the growth, sensory characteristics and selected chemical composition of eight red and three yellow commercial varieties. Grown with plasticulure, the tomatoes were evaluated in 2004. Six-week-old transplants of 11 grape tomato varieties were planted on March 23, 2004, at the North Florida Research and Education Center – Suwannee Valley, near Live Oak, Fla. The soil type was a Lakeside fine sand.

Plasticulture was used on beds spaced 5 feet apart; the plants were spaced 1.5 feet apart within the row. This produced a stand of 5,810 plants per acre. Each variety was planted onto three, 23-foot long plots. Based on soil test results, the field was fertilized with a preplant application of 13- 4-13 (N-P2O5-K2O) that supplied 56 kg/ha N (50 lb/acre N) and weekly injections of liquid 7-0-7 according to IFAS recommendations, Simmone noted.

The tomatoes were staked to a height of 8 feet and strung fi ve times. Fruits began ripening during early June, but yields were not determined. On June 18, earliness, the presence of green shoulder on tomato fruits, plant growth habit and the occurrence of disease symptoms were recorded by consensus
of two observers.

Taste Test
For the sensory analysis, approximately 2.2 lb of grape tomato was harvested from each plot from one replication on June 21, washed, dried and stored overnight at room temperature. The taste test was conducted the next day between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. in a quiet room following the recommendations
from the American Society of Testing Materials (1981).

“East volunteer panelist was seated and received a plate that was divided into five sections marked with random three-digit numbers,” Simonne said. “Approval was obtained from the University of Florida Institutional Review Board for research involving human subjects under UFIRB-2001-Y-770.
Single-fruit samples representing fi ve varieties were placed on each plate section using toothpicks.”

Panelists were provided with a pen, a data collection form and a glass of water to cleanse their palate between each sample. On the form, panelists were asked to provide age group and gender, and were instructed to not report their names. Panelists were asked to taste each of the fi ve red-tomato samples and score sweetness, acidity, fl avor and overall preference.

“The number of red varieties used in the taste test was reduced to fi ve based on field observations to prevent panelist fatigue,” the speaker said. “For each attribute, panelists recorded their scores by making a mark on a 90-mm (3.0 inch) long, unstructured line with anchors. Anchors at the left ends of the
liens represented poor scores (such as ‘not sweet’ or ‘dislike’) whereas those on the right end of the line represented satisfactory scores (such as ‘sweet’ or ‘like’).” After a short break, new plates and new data collection forms were provided for the evaluation of three yellow varieties. The distances from the left sides of the lines to the panelist’s marks were measured to the nearest millimeter to score each sensory attribute.

“’Sweet Olive’ was the earliest,” Simonne said. “’Chiquita’ was pink when ripe instead of red, and ‘Red Grape,’ ‘Sweet Olive’ and ‘Tami G’ showed no green shoulder. Ranges for fl esh ph (4.21 to 4.48), titratable acidity (0.31 to 0.50 percent citric acid equivalent), and soluble solids (3.75 to 7.40 Brix) were narrow, and similar for all varieties. In the taste test, ‘Santa’ was consistently rated equivalent to ‘Red Grape’ and ‘ St. Nick’ while ‘Sweet Olive’ and ‘Tami G’ received lower preference scores. Few differences were found among the three yellow varieties. ‘Agriset 8282’ and ‘Honey Bunch’ were preferred over ‘Morning Light.’”

© 2006 Columbia Publishing

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