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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):
A few additional locations also trialed:
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
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.
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
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
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: