WOOSTER, Ohio -- Ohio State University vegetable researchers are calling on commercial fresh-market tomato growers to nominate their favorite varieties for a project that explores grafting as a viable technique to reduce pest and disease pressures while preserving the productivity of currently used tomato varieties.
Grafting combines the superior root system of a non-fruiting rootstock tomato variety with the shoot of a good fruiting variety, called the scion, said Matt Kleinhenz, a professor of horticulture and crop science based on the Wooster campus of the university's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).
OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
"Most farmers have a favorite tomato variety and heavily rely on just a few varieties that produce fruit the market wants," said Kleinhenz, who is also a vegetable crops specialist with OSU Extension, the outreach arm of the college.
"Consumers are looking for specific characteristics -- weight, size, color, taste, how well it keeps. Grafting means a greater ability for farmers to provide these qualities under challenging field conditions while maintaining ties to sustainability for consumers."
For example, Kleinhenz said, commercial tomato varieties are often susceptible to certain nematodes, soil-borne diseases or environmental stresses. Fusing the scions of those varieties with resistant rootstock, however, allows growers to minimize these limitations, often with fewer chemicals and without switching varieties.
"These rootstock and scion combinations often outperform standard ungrafted plants," Kleinhenz said. "However, rootstock and scion varieties must be chosen carefully in order to maximize the return on investment in grafted plants."
A new Ohio State project is tackling this issue by trying to determine which combinations have the greatest grafting success and grafted plant vigor out of thousands of possible combinations available.
That’s where commercial growers come in, Kleinhenz said.
"We prefer to experiment with fresh-market varieties nominated by commercial tomato growers," he said. "We want them to let us know their favorite rootstock and scion varieties."
The top 10 rootstock-scion combinations will be selected by researchers and given to growers for on-farm performance evaluations, Kleinhenz said.
No experience with grafting or the use of grafted plants is necessary to nominate varieties. The names of growers who nominate varieties and the information they provide will remain anonymous and confidential. Growers can also indicate if they wish to receive grafted plants in planned follow-up studies.
To nominate varieties, growers can log on to http://hcs.osu.edu/vpslab/organic-grafted-tomato-variety-nominations or contact Kleinhenz at email@example.com or 330-263-3810.
More information about Ohio State's tomato grafting project is available athttp://hcs.osu.edu/vpslab/grafting.