North Dakota State University * Dickinson Research Extension Center
1089 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601-4642 Voice: (701) 483-2348 FAX: (701) 483-2005


Tomato Variety/Mulch Evaluation Study

Jerry Larson, Extension Agent, NDSU Stark/Billings County Extension Service, Dickinson, ND
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Plant Sciences Department, Fargo, ND 
Jennifer Picken, Dickinson ND

Introduction

An evaluation of several tomato varieties along with a comparison of mulches was conducted at the Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) during the summer of 1997. This was a suggestion from our DREC Horticulture Advisory Committee. The reason for the study was because tomatoes are such a popular vegetable and local gardeners are becoming more concerned about the efficient use of moisture in home gardens.

Materials & Methods

A total of 20 (8'x8') plots were developed using landscape timbers. Each plot contained four tomato varieties. Tomato varieties planted included:

Tomatoes were transplanted on June 10 and were provided by Richard Selinger, New England; and the NDSU Horticulture Department.

Mulches were applied immediately after transplanting. Mulches were replicated twice in this study.Mulches used were:

No fertilizer or herbicides; however, residual control was received from Prowl that was applied in 1996 resulting in no significant weed problems.

First harvest occurred on September 3, and the last harvest was September 19 following a hard frost.

Tomatoes were hand-watered on a regular basis.

Results & Discussion

A total of 4,801 tomatoes and a total of 1,466.4 pounds were produced. However, results of this evaluation were affected by vandalism experienced at the DREC. Plants that were lost about mid-summer were not replanted. Therefore, not all plots had the same number of producing tomatoes. Vandalism occurred in the form of harvesting of ripe fruits by visitors and a big, BIG black lab.

Evaluation of tomato varieties:

Celebrity performed very well in our evaluation study this year. Celebrity has a very upright growth, and the tomatoes were good sized and high-quality flavor. The Celebrity variety appeared to mature slower than other varieties. Rated as the Number 1 tomato variety in our plot this year.

Siberia is an early-maturing, high-producing variety. The fruit are quite small, which is typical of early-maturing varieties, and the flavor is good. Some sunscald was experienced late in the season, and this was the only variety not eaten by grasshoppers. This would be highly recommended as an early-maturing variety for homeowner use. Rated as the second-best variety.

Champion is another later-maturing variety that appeared to ripen quickly once the fruit was set. This variety yielded well, in fact, one plant in our plots produced 57 pounds. It has a large fruit size with very good flavor. This was also a very upright growing plant which made harvest easy. Ranked third in this study.

Big Beef has a large fruit size, but this year the yield was considered only fair. Some incidence of late blight occurred in mid-summer on this variety. Selected as fourth ranked variety.

Super Fantastic plants tended to break down and sprawl across the ground which made harvesting difficult. Production was less than other varieties with only fair production. Fruit size was good along with good flavor. A ranking of five.

Way Ahead is another very early-maturing variety with small fruit and medium production. Flavor is rated as fair, and this variety had the most variation in plant and tomato size. For this growing season, Siberia outperformed the Way Ahead variety. Sixth-ranked variety.

Brandywine had enormous spreading plants with gigantic fruit and low production. It appears to be a very late-maturing variety and very little fruit reached maturity. Brandywine has a mealy pulp but has a fantastic and rich flavor. Early and late blight diseases also attacked this variety. Seventh ranked.

Other Varieties:

Other tomato varieties were evaluated at the DREC this year. These varieties were obtained from Ron Smith and included:


Viva Italia would be a good tomato paste variety. It yielded well but was quick to wilt during the hot summer months. Super Bush was an excellent upright tomato for a small garden. It had low production and medium-sized tomatoes with average flavor and tough skins. St. Pierre had average production, size and flavor with severe blossom end rot. Sausalito had small fruit, good flavor and few seeds. Mont Favet had small tomatoes with fair production and very poor flavor with tough skins.

Sungold had excellent production, superb flavor and could be picked from the yellow through dark orange color stages. Flavor was excellent at all stages. Sweet Million was also very excellent in production with good flavor and was earlier maturing than Sungold.

Evaluation of mulches:

Mulches are used to reduce soil temperature, build the soil, prevent weeds, keep water in the root zone, control erosion and reduce maintenance resulting in more efficient water use. About three to four inches of mulch was applied in the plots.

Grass clippings performed very well. In addition to the production advantage, grass clippings are easy to work with and had a visual advantage during the growing season. Grass clippings held moisture effectively with no weed problems. Grass clippings were the top rated mulch in this evaluation.

Wood chips performed well by holding moisture, controlling weeds and providing added organic material to the soil. Availability may be limited, and packaged wood chips are quite expensive. Wood chips rated as the second best mulch.

Black plastic was very effective in maintaining a more even soil temperature level and controlling weeds. Plastic was more difficult to water and tended to form puddles on the plastic. Plants grew like rockets although production wasn't as noteworthy as grass clippings or wood chips. Based on production, black plastic would be the third rated mulch.

Buckwheat hulls are a very attractive mulch, however production was low and can be explained by the high absorption of water by the hulls, mounding of hulls around the plants made it difficult to water and we experienced a season-long problem with buckwheat seedlings. Buckwheat hulls rating would be fourth in this study.

Check (no mulch) plots produced very well, and this can be explained by the residual that was obtained from the Prowl herbicide application in 1996. Check plots had very few weeds, and since our watering schedule was on a regular basis, plots did not dry out.

Mulches used Production:

Conclusion/Implications of Research

The use of mulches is becoming an increasingly accepted practice by area gardeners. Experiences with this study will be made available to our Extension clients. Based on mulch performance and plant performance, there appears to be a definite advantage to the use of organic mulches.

Tomato variety information will also be helpful to area gardeners, because it compares varieties that are grown under southwest North Dakota growing conditions. With the large selection of tomato varieties, local data will help in making wise variety selections for our area.
Our transplant date of June 10 proved to be on the late side. Our first killing frost occurred on September 19, and lots of tomatoes were still developing on the tomato vines that were lost to the frost.

Plot# 1

Mulch:

Buckwheat Hulls

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

75

23.3

Siberia

118

20.6

Celebrity

52

20.3

Super Fantastic

28

17.7

Total number

273

-
Total pounds -

81.9

 

Plot# 2

Mulch:

Buckwheat

Hulls

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

42

11.1

Way Ahead

56

14.7

Celebrity

56

25.2

Super Fantastic

38

35

Total number

192

-
Total pounds -

85.9

 

Plot# 3

Mulch:

Grass Clippings

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

82

27.3

Way Ahead

97

23.8

Celebrity

85

29.8

Super Fantastic

34

21.5

Total number

298

-
Total pounds -

102.4

 

Plot# 4

Mulch:

Grass Clippings

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

74

22.2

Siberia

81

21.5

Celebrity

62

20.8

Super Fantastic

29

18.1

Total number

246

-
Total pounds -

82.5

 

Plot# 5

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

65

19.1

Siberia

86

25.4

Celebrity

96

21.8

Super Fantastic

22

13.3

Total number

269

-
Total pounds -

79.5

 

Plot# 6

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

74

17.2

Siberia

85

25.4

Celebrity

97

24.9

Big Beef

76

37.1

Total number

332

-
Total pounds -

104.6

 

Plot# 7

Mulch:

Plastic

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

35

8.7

Siberia

47

16.3

Celebrity

44

17.1

Big Beef

29

22.3

Total number

155

-
Total pounds -

64.4

 

Plot# 8

Mulch:

Plastic

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

43

14.3

Siberia

71

23

Celebrity

67

20.6

Big Beef

28

16.5

Total number

209

-
Total pounds -

74.4

 

Plot# 9

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

51

15.1

Siberia

89

35

Celebrity

70

33

Champion

43

37

Total number

253

-
Total pounds -

120.1

 

Plot# 10

Mulch:

Check

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

0

0

Siberia

65

22.2

Celebrity

67

25.8

Champion

41

28.1

Total number

173

-
Total pounds -

76.1

 

Plot# 11

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

112

31

Siberia

121

50

Celebrity

84

34

Champion

62

57

Total number

379

-
Total pounds -

172

 

Plot# 12

Mulch:

Check

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

67

22.5

Siberia

53

29.5

Celebrity

71

40

Brandy Wine

52

43

Total number

243

-
Total pounds -

135

 

Plot# 13

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

82

19.3

Siberia

70

22.9

Celebrity

63

20.9

Brandy Wine

24

12

Total number

239

-
Total pounds -

75.1

 

Plot# 14

Mulch:

Plastic

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

75

11

Siberia

59

12

Celebrity

37

16.5

Champion

32

25

Total number

203

-
Total pounds -

64.5

 

Plot# 15

Mulch:

Plastic

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

55

17.5

Siberia

53

11.5

Celebrity

61

17

Champion

33

21

Total number

202

-
Total pounds -

67

 

Plot# 16

Mulch:

Buckwheat

Hulls

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

63

18.8

Siberia

85

16.8

Celebrity

48

17.8

Super Fantastic

28

17.5

Total number

224

-
Total pounds -

70.9

 

Plot# 17*

Mulch:

Buckwheat

Hulls

*Plants damaged by vandalism

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

30

8.3

Siberia

21

5

Celebrity

33

9.1

Super Fantastic

11

7

Total number

95

-
Total pounds -

29.3

 

Plot# 18

Mulch:

Grass Clippings

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

85

25

Siberia

102

24.5

Celebrity

95

26

Super Fantastic

59

20.5

Total number

341

-
Total pounds -

104

 

Plot# 19

Mulch:

Wood Chips

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

52

15.8

Siberia

69

20.9

Celebrity

79

22

Big Beef

33

21.8

Total number

233

-
Total pounds -

80.4

 

Plot# 20

Mulch:

Grass Clippings

Variety

Number

Pounds

Way Ahead

78

25.8

Siberia

77

20.6

Celebrity

60

21

Super Fantastic

29

20.5

Total number

244

-
Total pounds -

87.9


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