Grafting Heirloom Tomatoes on Disease Resistant Rootstock in Western North Carolina

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2009: $4,960.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Susan Colucci
NC Cooperative Extension


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    The incidence of diseases caused by soilborne plant pathogens has been on the rise in western North Carolina over the past several years. In order to reduce losses caused by soilborne diseases, conventional tomato growers must integrate genetic disease resistance, fumigation and pesticides. Paradoxically, there is a strong market in western North Carolina for organically grown, heirloom varieties of tomatoes. Growers who produce heirloom varieties following organic production standards face an even more challenging situation because of poor disease resistance and productivity of these varieties. In order to meet market demands, alternative management strategies for the control of soilborne diseases are essential. Grafting is a novel technique that can be used to manage soilborne diseases and has been successfully utilized in vegetable production systems in Asia and the Mediterranean. The idea of grafting as an integrated pest management strategy has become popular in the United States in recent years. This project will evaluate the use of grafting heirloom tomato varieties on disease resistant and vigorous rootstock on two farms in western North Carolina. The objective of the project is to evaluate the usefulness of grafting in small-scale organic production systems in western North Carolina and to extend this knowledge to the greater community of tomato growers in the region. There will be one on-farm location, Black Bird Farms, where field trials will be held in this project. Though Black Bird Farms is not certified organic, organic production standards are followed. Bacterial wilt, caused by soilborne plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum, was identified on Black Bird Farms in August 2008. Disease resistant rootstock/scion combinations will be selected and evaluated in the infected field at Black Bird Farms. Disease incidence and severity ratings, vigor ratings and yield and fruit quality will be recorded at this field site. . By collaborating with growers and conducting this research on-farm under field conditions we will be able to assess the practicality of grafting as an alternative management strategy for the control of soilborne plant pathogens. We will share the results of this research with farmers, researchers and Extension professionals via print publications, such as newsletters and web accessible materials, as well as first hand through a field day held at Black Bird Farms and a hands-on grafting workshop.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives for this field research are:

    1. To determine the effectiveness of grafting heirloom and commercial varieties of tomato onto disease resistant rootstock for the management of soilborne disases.

    2. To determine if it is practical and cost effective to graft tomatoes for the control of soilborne diseases.

    3. To educate growers, extension agents and others about grafting tomatoes.

    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.