Posts Tagged ‘UNL’

New Project: Grafted Heirloom Tomatoes

'Pruden's Purple' seedlings

As a horticulture major (at Nebraska), I’ve recently become very interested in grafting. I’m familiar with several types of woody grafting such as cleft, side-veneer, chip-budding and so on, but the field of herbaceous grafting is new to me.

Not any longer.

I’ve started a project that I intend to follow throughout the growing season, and it involves tomato grafting.

Tomato grafting has long been used in the commercial hydroponic or greenhouse tomato production field, and usually involves grafting a desired variety (scion) to a vigorous rootstock. This allows for increased production and quality in a greenhouse setting.

But what about taking some of the positives of that rootstock, such as vigor, disease-resistance, production, etc… and re-directing it into an heirloom variety instead of a commercial variety? This isn’t a novel idea that I dreamt up, of course, but it something that has been taking hold with a few growers around the country.

So, I decided to try it for myself. I ordered several different heirloom varieties from Johnny’s Seeds, a few interesting standard hybrids, and even an eggplant cultivar (another member of the Solanaceae, eggplant is closely related to tomatoes, and is graft-compatible).

The heirloom varieties I started are ‘Brandywine‘, ‘Pruden’s Purple‘, ‘Striped Cavern‘, and ‘Moskvich‘. In addition, I started some ‘Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain’ seeds that I got from the annual AHS seed exchange program. I also ordered some ‘Stupice‘ seeds from Morgan County Seeds, but they haven’t arrived yet. They’ll be too late to get into the project, due to size incompatibility between rootstock and scion.

I also started seeds of ‘Mountain Fresh Plus‘, ‘Celebrity‘, ‘Valley Girl‘ and ‘JTO-99197‘, all F1 hybrid types.

The eggplant I’m going to use is ‘Fairy Tale‘, a F1 hybrid type.

All of those are the desired cultivar for fruit characteristics, but the idea behind the project is to graft them onto a vigorous, disease-resistant, high-production rootstock. I selected ‘Maxifort F1‘, a selection that will give me great results — I hope.

As of now, the seedlings have all emerged, the cotyledons are fading and the first and second sets of true leaves are expanding. A couple more weeks and it’ll be time to graft!

For the grafts, I’m using silicone tomato grafting clips and standard double-edged razor blades. I’ll have an update on the progress soon!


At the Great Plains Vegetable Growers’ Conference

Over the weekend, I braved the poor road conditions on I-29 and headed south to balmy St. Joseph, Missouri (local temp: -2) to attend the Great Plains Vegetable Growers’ Conference.

I heard about the conference from Dr. Laurie Hodges, the vegetable extension specialist at UNL. She gave a guest lecture during my Vegetable Production class this past fall at UNL, and mentioned to me that it would probably be beneficial for me to attend.

And boy, was it beneficial.

I can’t begin to relate all that I learned over the course of the three days spent on Missouri Western State’s campus. From the high tunnel seminar to irrigation practices to organic insect control to new seed varieties available in 2010 to CSA organization to cover crop rotation… it was an incredibly valuable experience for a vegetable grower like myself.

That’s not even to mention what a wonderful opportunity the conference was for networking and meeting people involved in the fruit and vegetable business in the Great Plains. I made a number of new friends in the Nebraska Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, made plans to visit a couple of Nebraska vegetable farms, and just generally made a huge leap forward in my knowledge and connection with the vegetable production industry in Nebraska.

It was also very interesting to listen to the presentations by growers from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and South Dakota — and the very interesting seminar about high tunnels, specifically the organic high tunnels of Zaid Kurdieh at Norwich Meadows Farm in New York.

I’ve definitely become convinced that a high tunnel will greatly benefit my production, and will likely be building a small one this spring. There’s some great info on high tunnels here, at a website run by Dr. Ted Carey at Kansas State.

I’m already certain that I’ll be attending next year’s conference, and I’ll recommend the same to the growers I see in the market this summer.

As a sidenote, I’m also pretty excited about the new hoes I bought from ProHoe. Anything that makes weeding easier is my new best friend…