Grafting heirloom tomatoes for organic high tunnel production to improve season extension, disease control, and fruit yield: A partnership with local growers for technology transfer

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 09/13/2017
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Xin Zhao
University of Florida

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Crop Production: grafting, high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: cultural control
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture


    An experiment comparing grafted and non-grafted specialty tomatoes for soil-borne disease resistance, yield, and fruit quality was conducted in an organically managed high tunnel at the Frog Song Organics farm, Hawthorne, FL. Four indeterminate, small-fruited cultivars selected by the grower were used, including ‘Sun Gold’, ‘Supersweet 100’, ‘Black Cherry’, and ‘Green Zebra’. They were grafted onto two commercial tomato rootstocks ‘Multifort’ and ‘Estamino’, with the non-grafted tomato scion cultivars as controls. Grafting was shown to be an effective tool for managing Fusarium wilt and improving the overall health of tomato plants. Total marketable yield was significantly improved in grafted tomato production compared with non-grafted controls in the organic high tunnel system. Some scion-rootstock interaction effects were observed in fruit quality assessment. Economic analysis indicated increased net returns as a result of using grafted plants regardless of the higher production cost. Research findings were disseminated through various workshops and presentations. This on-farm research project was a successful demonstration of technology transfer through a collaborative and productive partnership with local growers to address targeted production issues.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1. Determine the effectiveness of grafting with resistant rootstocks for controlling soil-borne diseases in heirloom and specialty tomatoes grown in organically managed high tunnel. 

    Objective 2. Assess fruit yield and quality as affected by grafting with vigorous disease-resistant rootstocks. 

    Objective 3. Analyze the costs and returns of high tunnel production of grafted tomatoes to determine its economic feasibility in a commercial operation setting.

    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.