What is in this article?:
- Tomato growers welcome virus-resistant T-5 variety
- Whitefly, virus struggles
- Field tomato growers say a new virus-resistant tomato variety may provide a glimmer of hope for an industry that has been decimated by a raging virus complex spread by the dreaded whitefly.
- The outbreak so intense that it has destroyed virtually all field tomato production in the vegetable-rich Rio Grande Valley and has challenged growers from Arizona to Florida who have been losing ground to Canadian and Mexican tomato imports in recent years.
Whitefly, virus struggles
“And it’s not just the Southwest that has struggled with the whitefly and this new virus complex. Florida growers have been battling the disease for over a decade and they also have suffered declining production numbers as a result, and Arizona growers are now dealing with the whitefly and virus problems as well,” Crosby adds.
He says while the T-5 variety is a Roma type tomato used largely in canning operations, research is already underway to develop a virus resistant strain of Beef Steak tomatoes, and an added benefit to the new variety is not only its virus-resistant properties, but they are also more heat tolerant for drier regions.
“This is wonderful news, a tomato that is virus resistant to whitefly infestations and more heat tolerant in the field. This is awesome news for field tomato growers looking for a way to increase their yields and lower their production costs,” said Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service vegetable specialist in Welsaco. “There are only a handful of tomato guys left in South Texas and already we know of one large producer who is using the T-5. This is good news for the vegetable industry.”
In addition to its virus resistance and heat tolerance, breeders say the T-5 has sparked a lot of interest because it is an open pollinated variety, meaning it doesn’t require a hybrid seed. This means a lower cost seed and one that allows for direct seeding in the field.
Field trials continue across Texas and at least one commercial breeder is already testing the variety in production. Buddy Ault, president of Rio Valley Canning in Donna, says so far he is pleased with the results.
“The tomato has good color and taste and is highly productive,” Ault says.
The only down side he’s seen is that the T-5 is an indeterminate variety, so not all the fruit sets and matures at the same time. But he’s hopeful the next generation of the new variety may incorporate improvements to make it even more attractive to commercial growers.
“We’re certainly pleased with Dr. Crosby’s new variety,” Ault adds.