Grafting heirloom tomatoes for field production

Final Report for FNE09-657

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2009: $8,034.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Peter Garnham
East End Community Organic Farm
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Project Information


My proposal was to grow and graft heirloom varieties to hybrid rootstocks and evaluate their performance under field conditions. I selected three varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and one variety of disease-resistant rootstock, to be seeded in 72-cell tray inserts, using a soilless growing medium (Pro-Mix). The heirloom varieties were Red Brandywine (Sudduth strain), Green Zebra, and Pineapple. The rootstock was Maxifort, a F1 hybrid that has demonstrated outstanding disease resistance, excellent plant vigor, and has the potential to improve nutrient take-up. A total of 1,944 plants were to be grown – 648 heirloom seedlings for grafting, 648 rootstock seedlings, and 648 transplants of the same three heirloom tomato varieties that were to be grown and transplanted as controls to compare with the grafted plants.

A medium-scale experiment to produce grafted heirloom tomato plants for field production was unsuccessful because the rootstock material germinated and grew at inconsistent and non-uniform rates

Complete report attached below.

Project Objectives:

By growing commercial quantities of grafted transplants for three commercial growers, and subjecting them to stresses normally encountered by hybrid and other ‘regular’ transplants, I plan to investigate whether commercially useful quantities of grafted transplants:

1. Can be produced on-farm at a cost that can be justified by the higher selling price for heirloom tomatoes;
2. Are viable for normal field transplanting techniques;
3. Are able to satisfactorily resist diseases; and
4. Produce quantities of marketable fruit that are at least competitive with hybrid transplants

The results will be shared with interested growers with a publication, Tomato Grafting: A Guide for Northeast Growers that will be made available online as a PDF document on the EECO Farm website at, the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County website at, at three on-farm workshops, and at CCE’s winter vegetable growers meeting.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.