The recent success of the UF/IFAS-born and bred Tasti-Lee tomato has put the finicky piece of produce back on the map. Much maligned for being picked too early and lacking in flavor, Florida tomatoes are set to make a comeback.
Off to a good start with Tasti-Lee, researchers have continued work on
finding the right components for a tomato that sports more pest and disease resiliency, enhanced fruit quality, superior yield, and better taste. During the 2012 Florida Ag Expo, Dr. Sam Hutton, UF/IFAS assistant professor and tomato breeding specialist, led a discussion on interesting developments in the field of variety improvement.
Though no new tomato varieties are ready for release from UF/IFAS at the moment, he noted several promising prospects that have emerged from ongoing trials, including Fla. 8872, which came out of the bacterial wilt resistance program. Though scoring low on resistance, it was found to have desirable fruit and vine traits. “We tested six hybrids with 8872 as a parent in a trial of 35 total hybrids,” Hutton said. “All six ranked in the Top 10 for yield and extra-large fruit.”
Another standout is Fla. 8735. According to Hutton, the inbred features a crimson gene (similar to what’s in Tasti-Lee) providing high lycopene, very good flavor, and large locules that impart juiciness and acidity to the tomato.
Rounding out the presentation, Hutton touched on a new program where they are breeding tomato plants to have a more compact growth habit, which would allow easier equipment access through the fields. He said researchers are trying to combine this with a jointless pedicel trait that — when teamed with the right variety — could lead to “ideal-situation” possibilities such as uniform ripening, concentrated fruit set, and an adaptability for machine harvest. “Hopefully we can really reduce grower inputs and help them boost their profitability.”