New Varieties Being Developed for Organic Production

Organic heirloom tomatoes last year-no blight!
Randy Gardner, retired NC State tomato breeder, visited our organic heirloom and heirloom-type hybrid tomato variety trial today. As most of you know, late blight is rampant throughout our region and most organic growers are reporting significant damage. Last week I noted that there was a very definite difference between varieties in the amount of late blight damage. Surprisingly, one of the heirloom varieties is still going strong. That is good old 'Mr. Stripey'! But Randy was excited about one of his big, pink hybrids; it is doing exceptionally well. It is a Brandywine cross, with an indeterminate growth habit and really good flavor. It is being tested under the breeding number NC08224. It is an improved version of a tomato we evaluated last year under the breeding number NC161L. This new variety won't be available commercially for several more years, but it gives us something to look forward to.

In the meantime, a Bejo seed company representative called me this week to tell me that 'Mountain Magic' seed will be commercially available next year. This is exciting news because 'Mountain Magic' has done great in our studies and in growers' fields. It is a high-yielding, campari type tomato with exceptional flavor. It has come up number one in our taste test trials for several years. It was tested under the breeding number NC05114.

The heirloom variety, Stupice' has also held up well in the presence of late blight, has a long production period, and ranks high in the taste tests.

While we're on the subject of late blight, you might want to check out this Powerpoint presentation on organic late blight management that was just presented by Ruth Hazzard at the 2009 NOFA Conference: http://www.umassvegetable.org/documents/OrganicLateblightMgtAug09.pdf

So, it looks like with a good late blight resistant variety and the right combination of organic products, we should all be able to grow a good crop of organic tomatoes in western North Carolina. I know, some of you are already doing that, but for most organic farmers and gardeners in this region, that is an almost impossible task in a wet, 'late blight heavy' year like this one. We will welcome the help of some "good genes".
(FYI, none of Randy's varieties are GMO's)

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