UACES Facebook 2020 County Agent Tomato Demo Results
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Arkansas Fruit, Vegetable and Nut Update

2020 County Agent Tomato Demo Results

by Amanda McWhirt, Aaron Cato, and Hank Chaney - September 25, 2020

Thanks to Kurt Beaty (Jefferson County), Randy Forst (Pulaski County) and Jennifer Caraway (Miller County) for providing their data to this report.

The past few years University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension County Agents have been conducting demonstrations of tomato plantings with growers and gardeners across the state. This year they trialed three cultivars that have varying disease resistance to see how they would grow, and more importantly how they taste!     

The cultivars that were trialed were as follows (Green filled box indicates a disease resistance or tolerance):

Variety Fruit Size Days to Maturity Comments TSWV Alternaria Stem Canker Fusarium (O, 1, 2, or 3) Grey Leaf Spot Verticilium Wilt Early Blight 
Moutain Magic 2 oz, Campari Type Listed as 66-75 days Indeterminate. Fruit are described as: excellent flavor, uniform and crack resistant-potential to harvest the truss. Vigorous plants, need sturdy trellis.  No No 0, 1, and 2 No Yes  Yes 
Red Defender 8 oz 75 days Determinate. Later season, maybe prone to catfacing in first harvests. Flattened globe fruit shape. Yes Yes 1 and 2 Yes Yes  No
Celebrity 8 oz  65-70 days Determinate; semi-determinate. Mid-season; plant is vigorous No No 1 and 2 No Yes  No


A few additional locations also trialed: 

Variety Fruit Size Days to Maturity Comments
Phoenix  8 oz 72 days Early mid-season. Good ability to set fruit in high heat (fall production). Vigorous vine with good leaf cover for fruit protection. 
Mountain Spring 9-12 oz 69-72 days  Good flavor and processes well for canning. Good leaf coverage of fruit to protect fruit from sun scald. High-quality fruit with high tolerance to cracking, very attractive uniform appearance. A week earlier than other red members of the series, with 8-10 oz firm fruits. Resists cracking and blossom-end rot. Mild, pleasant flavor.


Each agent received 6 plants of each cultivar and they were given a standard fertility and pest management program that they could choose to follow.

County agents posted the progress of their demos on social media and you may have seen them tagged with #tomatodemo2020 or #uaexHORT

There were 30 counties that provided feedback at the end of the demonstration.

Kurt Beaty (Jefferson County), Randy Forst (Pulaski County) and Jennifer Caraway (Miller County) additionally collected yield data on the cultivar’s performance at their demonstration locations.

Here is some of the feedback agents and their demonstration cooperators gave about these tomato cultivars, based on their performance during the summer of 2020.

Close-up photo of the tomato variety 'Mountain Magic' with ripe tomatoes towards the stalk and tomatoes gradually becoming less ripe down the stem

Early season 'Mountain Magic' tomatoes ripening. (Photo: Amanda McWhirt)

Mountain Magic was the highest rated (4/5) for flavor, yield, and plant health of all of the varieties evaluated. It was also the cultivar that people said they would most likely plant again. Several agents commented that if people like smaller Roma/ Campari style tomatoes that these plants were very productive and set nice fruit. Some agents were still harvesting late into August on Mountain Magic, though the fruit size dropped off later in the season. Some really enjoyed the flavor of this one, but not all.

    • From the data collected Mountain magic was producing on average 50->100 tomatoes per plant over the season

    • Fruit average 0.70 oz per fruit; fruit size dropped off over the season so this average is lower compared to the published 2oz fruit size

    • Yields averaged 5-10 lbs. per plant

Three green 'Celebrity' tomatoes on a tomato plant

Early season ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes. (Photo: Amanda McWhirt)

Generally, people were happy with Celebrity it averaged 4/5 for flavor and plant health, but only 3/5 for yield. For others it was hit by bacterial wilt early and plants were lost.

    • Average size 6.85 oz tomato

    • Yields averaged 6-15 lbs. per plant

There were mixed reviews of Red Defender with it averaging 3/5 for flavor, yield and plant health. Some had good yields, and good plant vigor but for others the plants struggled to establish, and some had heavy plant losses due to bacterial wilt. This was the cultivar that has resistance to many common disease problems, however it was not rated highly by the demonstration participants for flavor.

    • Average size 6.25 oz tomato
    • Yields averaged 5-14 lbs. per plant
A hand showing the back of a tomato transplant leaf that is showing purple coloring

Tomato transplants showing purple coloring due to cool temperatures in April 2020. (Photo: Amanda McWhirt)

Mountain Spring was one of the lowest producing cultivars for both Randy (Pulaski) and Jennifer (Miller) and averaged 3 oz sized fruit.

Phoenix was a high yielder for Randy (Pulaski), but not for Jennifer (Miller). It had slightly smaller fruit size on average at about 5 oz.

Overall, many of the participants felt that all of the cultivars were lacking in flavor.

Some of the observed differences in plant performance across the state are likely due to differences in climate, disease pressure and planting date. If you remember back to the late spring of 2020, we had lots of very cool temps late into April and early May that delayed planting or slowed the establishment on young transplants already in the ground.

Thanks to all the county agents and collaborators who participated in providing feedback on the 2020 Tomato Demonstration:

Name County
Phil Horton


Les Walz Cleveland
Herb Ginn Crawford
Krista Quinn Faulkner
Jesse Taylor Franklin
Cory Tyler Fulton
Alex Dykes Garland
Dave Freeze Greene
Clay Wingfield Hempstead
Rachel Bearden Hot Spring
Nathan Reinhart Independence
Kurt Beaty Jefferson
Jennifer Sansom Little River
Bob Harper Logan
Darrin Henderson Madison
Jennifer Caraway Miller
Randy Black Montgomery
Adam Willis Newton
Keri Weatherford Ouachita
Zach Gardner Perry
Shawn Payne Philips
Jeffrey Works Poinsett
Sherry Beaty-Sullivan Polk
Randy Forst Pulaski
Nicole Nichols Saline
Clyde Fenton Sebastian
Tyler Caston Stone
Sherri Sanders White
Brett Gordon  Woodruff