Economic Implications of Using Tomato Suckers to Produce Late Season Tomato Plants instead of Starting Late Season Plants from Seed

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $5,318.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: That Guy's Family Farm
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Sandy Ashmore
That Guys Family Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: general crop production


    We finished the first year of our two year project. We purchased and built a 24X48  high tunnel in the spring of 2016.  The transplants from seed were started on 05/18/16.  The suckers were gathered from the same varieties from field plants and planted in cell trays on 06/24/16 (five weeks later). The soil in the tunnel was prepared and drip tape installed. The seeded and suckered tomato transplants were planted in the tunnel on 07/11/16.  The tomato plants were watered, strung, and weeded for the duration of the season. Fruit harvest began on 08/08/16 and continued until a killing frost on 11/11/16.  Visual observation, projected timeline was met, and yields records were kept.

    Daily Log - SARE 2016 

    The conclusion of the second year comfirmed our project objectives.  We were comfortable with the process of collecting suckers from the main season crop (07-02-17) and how to maintain the vitality of the suckers until transplanting.  The timing of seeding the control group (5-24-17) to match plant growth of both transplant groups seemed correct.  The soil was prepared and spacing of the beds and tranplants was agreed to be left the same. The tomatoes were planted on 7-17-17 after rain delays. This season did come with record rainfall for June and July.  We were especiallly glad to have this late season crop under cover of a tunnel. The tomatoe plants were watered, strung, and weeded for the duration of the season. Fruit harvest began on 08/31/17 and continued until a killing frost on 10/21/17.  Visual observation, projected timeline was met, and yields records were kept.

    Daily Log 2017 - SARE

    Project objectives:

     We met our objective of setting up the research using the high tunnel to produce late season tomatoes using suckers as plants. We followed the timeline and used the specific methods outlined in the solution in the grant.  We believe that affordable, certified organic tomato plants for fall production can be produced using side shoots (suckers) that are pruned from main season tomato plants.

    We proposed a trial of organic late season tomatoes produced via transplanted suckers.

    This project has two specific sub-goals:

    Measure potential yield differences between the plants produced via suckers and late season tomato transplants grown from seed.

    Calculate the economic implications of each production system by accounting for any observed yield differences and variations in labor hours.

    Specific methods follow:

    Tomato plants grown via suckers were the experimental treatment, while tomato plants grown from seed served as controls.

    At least 80 tomato plants will be produced in the experimental treatment, with an equal number being produced in the control treatment.

    1. All tomato plants in both treatments were transplanted into a high tunnel to control for environmental factors, to prevent fungal disease, and to insure that the fall crop is able to produce as long as possible.

    Suckers were pruned from main season tomato plants and rooted during late-June. The control plants will be started from seed during mid-May to ensure that both groups of plants are roughly the same size when planted in the high tunnel during early July.

    All transplanting and harvest activities did occur on the same day for both control and experimental tomatoes.

    Crop yields (weight) and labor hours were tracked for both groups throughout the growing season, and will be assigned a monetary value at the end of the season. This data was used to compare the profitability of organic late season tomato plant production via suckers to traditional plant production via seeds.

    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.