Potential of grafting to improve nutrient management of heirloom tomatoes on organic farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2007: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Mary Peet
North Carolina State University
Major Professor:
Dr. Frank Louws
NC State University

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops, fertigation, foliar feeding, organic fertilizers, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulching - plastic, sanitation, soil solarization, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    The existing scientific literature suggests that grafted herbaceous plants can be more efficient at absorbing certain macro- and micro- nutrients (Ruiz, 1996: Leonardi, 2006). However, data regarding nutrient uptake of tomatoes is scarce and existing research has been carried out with conventional growing methods and hybrid cultivars. This project will collect and analyze data on the nutrient uptake efficiency of grafted heirloom tomatoes grown at multiple farming locations with organic management practices in eastern North Carolina. Several combinations of rootstock/scion pairings will be evaluated for nutrient uptake and marketable fruit yield. In addition the productivity of a grafted crop grown under the protection of high-tunnel structures versus a crop grown in the open field will be evaluated. Best management practices for fertilization will be developed for organic growers in the region for each growing regime. Together these investigations will help develop and tailor a sustainable, systems approach to growing organic heirloom tomatoes in the Southeast region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. 1) Establish nitrogen growth curves for grafted tomato plants. 2) Compare crop productivity and nutrient uptake of grafted heirloom tomatoes given different fertilizer regimes. 3) Assess the interaction between rootstock and heirloom scion combinations on crop productivity and nutrient uptake. 4) Compare the performance of grafted heirloom tomatoes in organic high-tunnel versus field production. 5) Develop and disseminate research-based knowledge via workshops, extension publications, research tours, etc. that can be used by organic growers to successfully and profitably adopt this emerging technology into their current growing practices.
    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.