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.
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 www.eecofarm.org, the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County website at counties.cce.cornell.edu/Suffolk, at three on-farm workshops, and at CCE’s winter vegetable growers meeting.