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California Processing Tomato Variety Evaluation

The Issue

Tomatoes are the leading processed vegetable crop in California. Annual production is about 10 million tons of fruit, grown on more than 260,000 acres and with a total on-farm value exceeding $608 million. Processing tomatoes are grown throughout the state and in many soil and temperature regimes. Under such diverse growing conditions, the performance of different varieties also varies greatly. One that does extremely well along the Central Coast may simply not set fruit out on the West Side in Fresno County.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE farm advisors each year conduct coordinated, regional processing tomato variety trials in counties throughout the state. Varieties are selected after extensive discussions among farm advisors, commercial processors and seed companies. The tests are then conducted with a cooperating grower in producing tomato fields, using commercial harvesters. Because the plots are large (100 ft), under the same growing conditions and procedures as the rest of the field, and machine-picked, there is a high degree of confidence that the data represent real world conditions. Yield data are collected using a specialized harvest gondola outfitted with sensitive weight-sensing bars. The harvester conveys the tomatoes to the gondola, pauses while a weight is taken, then continues on to the next plot. All this information is then integrated, analyzed and reported in newsletters, reports, meetings, the California Tomato Grower magazine and other media.

The Payoff

Trials contribute to yield and quality improvements

In 1973, when the trials started in three counties, average yields were 22.3 tons per acre. In 1997, yields had increased to almost 35 tons per acre. As overall production in the state has expanded (9.4 million pounds in 1997), so has the variety evaluation. Trials of both early and mid-season cultivars are now performed annually in six to eight counties. They include both replicated variety plantings and experimental lines not yet ready for commercial release. The results benefit the entire industry by providing unbiased information on which to make variety decisions. Additionally, the trials foster support and cooperation among UCCE, growers and processors.

Clientele Testimonial

“For processors the trials provide information on quality aspects for many varieties under a lot of different growing conditions”, notes Roger Scriven, with Morningstar Packing Company in Los Banos. “They also help growers learn and improve growing techniques.”


Supporting Unit: Merced County

Scott Stoddard, UCCE Farm Advisor, Merced & Madera Counties, 2145 Wardrobe Ave, Merced, CA 95340
(209) 385-7403 csstoddard@ucdavis.edu