Production and marketing of dry-farmed tomatoes in Oregon

Project Overview

SW20-917
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $349,875.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2023
Grant Recipients: Oregon State University; Oregon Tilth
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Dr. ALEXANDRA STONE
Oregon State University

Commodities

  • Vegetables: tomatoes

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, drought tolerance, grafting, varieties and cultivars, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: other
  • Production Systems: dryland farming, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers in the west are increasingly affected by reductions in summer irrigation availability due to early and reduced snowmelt and increased temperatures and drought. In addition, some farmers have no or limited water rights. This project is integrated with and led by the Dry Farming Collaborative, a group of farmers, extension educators, and agricultural professionals partnering to increase knowledge and awareness of dry farming practices. The project will support farmers in the production of flavorful tomatoes without supplemental irrigation (dry-farming), by engaging farmers in project development and evaluation, describing best soil management practices, identifying productive varieties and/or rootstock/scion pairs, evaluating dry-farm tomato crop profitability, evaluating sensory quality, developing recipes, promoting dry-farmed tomatoes, engaging other farmers in project, and evaluating project outcomes. The effect of tillage, organic mulching, compost amendments, rolled high biomass cover crops, and weed control strategies on plant available water and tomato yield and quality will be evaluated. Drought-tolerant tomato germplasm including Mediterranean dry-farm landraces, as well as grafting of diverse tomato types onto drought-tolerant rootstocks, will be evaluated for fruit productivity and quality in Oregon and California. Farmers will be engaged through the Dry Farming Collaborative Facebook group, listserve, field days, and winter meetings. Outcomes will be identified through paper and online evaluations at project end. Results will be extended to additional audiences through the publication of two journal articles (soil management and varietal performance) and a comprehensive dry farm tomato production extension bulletin, as well as presentations at grower meetings in Oregon and California. This project will reduce summer irrigation water use and thereby increase in-stream flows for aquatic organisms, and enhance farm system resilience to climate change. It will eliminate the need for costly and energy intensive irrigation systems, increasing profitability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will allow farmers on lands with no or limited irrigation rights to grow profitable crops with little to no risk, thereby increasing profitability and quality of life.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Dry-farmed/deficit-irrigated tomatoes have enhanced flavor and quality (Conesa 2014; Khapte 2019; Klunklin 2017; Leap 2017) and higher antioxidant contents (lycopene, total phenolics, and flavonoids) (Klunklin 2017).  A productive dry-farmed Early Girl tomato system and consumer demand for dry-farmed tomatoes have been developed for coastal California (Leap et al 2017), but dry-farmed tomatoes are largely unheard of in Oregon. 

    In CA, Early Girl has been identified as the only productive cultivar (Leap 2017). In informal Oregon trials, no variety outperformed Early Girl. Beorange was identified by participating farm GTF. Farmers are interested in alternative varieties, including paste/other colors.

    There is increasing EU interest in commercialization of drought-tolerant Mediterranean landraces (Bota 2014; Figas 2018; Fullana-Pericàs 2018; Patane 2016; Renna 2018; Siracusa 2013).

    Soil management is another important dry-farming tool (Leap 2017; Campiglia 2011; Cresell 1998; Runsten 2015; Sarkar 2007). The literature recommends ‘dust mulching’, high rate amendment, organic mulching, and weed control to reduce soil water evaporation/transpiration, but there is little data on the impacts of these practices.

    Building on past and ongoing efforts, this project will:

    • Engage farmers in development, delivery and evaluation of project
    • Describe best soil management practices
    • Identify productive varieties and/or rootstock/scion pairs
    • Evaluate profitability of dry farmed tomatoes
    • Evaluate sensory quality and develop recipes
    • Promote dry farmed tomatoes
    • Engage other farmers in project
    • Evaluate project outcomes
    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.