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TheLoud September 2, 2011 11:16 PM

Who's working on earliness?
Wow, what a lot of interesting projects are going on here.

Who's working on making early tomatoes more flavorful, or flavorful varieties earlier? I'm thinking of starting a project like that, and would rather build on than duplicate the work of others.

I skimmed the tomato gene pages linked here, but didn't find any genes specifically for flavor (like fruitiness, spiciness, smokiness etc.) I did find a gene that controlled acidity, but that's less interesting.

Two genes mentioned in this paper:
reduce the time between flowering and ripening. I was thinking of trying to get those genes into some of the more flavorful varieties through a lot of backcrossing. Is anyone doing that already?

Sherry_AK September 3, 2011 05:21 PM

Whoever does it ... I'll be cheering them on! Always looking for a good "early."

greensparrow September 3, 2011 06:22 PM

Earliness is a biggest focus of all my breeding, along with flavor. One of my favorite parents to use is Matt's Wild Cherry -- it is pretty early for me, and since it is selected directly from the wild, it is genetically different from most typical garden tomatoes and I find crosses between it and other earlier types often throw out nicely early individuals. One of the earliest tomatoes I've grown is from a cross between MWC and Black Krim. Flavor is also exceptional.
As you allude to, earliness depends both on the time to first flowering, and then the time between flowering and ripening. I have a hunch (just a hunch -- I've no data to back this up) is that faster ripening fruits would also be less flavorful, so I tend to focus on good growers in my very cool spring/early summer weather, and early flowering.

akgardengirl September 3, 2011 06:31 PM

I'm interested also but I haven't experimented with any crosses. Let us Alaska girls know if you want the real test for earliness.
Sue B

Chris_NH September 4, 2011 09:20 AM

I'm interested in this also. Would be happy to help out with earliness testing. Our growing season is quite short being on the edge of zones 4 and 3.

frogsleap farm September 4, 2011 09:24 AM

A few years ago I made crosses between my favorite/best tasting lines and classic early types like Stupice, Kimberly and Bloody Butcher - then started selection for both taste and earliness. I'm making progress and have several promising lines in the F3/F4 generation.

dice September 7, 2011 02:57 AM

I work on this. All of the early crosses that I am carrying forward so
far are saladettes or cherries. So far I have not had any success
getting earlier, tastier fruit baseball sized or bigger. (I keep trying
Ben Gantz x Fireworks II, which I think would bring better texture
and consistency to Ben Gantz with fruit 4-6 oz, but so far no buds
have set. I had a chance Ben Gantz x unknown F1 this year, RL,
but the fruit ended up tasty but Stupice sized again. I already have
other crosses like that farther along.)

I will have Spring King X Huge Black F2 seeds here in a couple of
weeks. The F1 has been more like "as late as Huge Black" rather
than "as early as Spring King", but some earlier selections should
shake out in the F2s or F3s. (I crossed that F1 to Jetsetter F1, seeking
something early, tasty, and productive with verticillium tolerance,
but I only have one fruit developing of that cross, and I do not know
yet how many seeds I will have.)

How big of tomatoes are you seeking to develop?

Also, how many plants of a cross can you grow at one time?
(How much room do you have?) That is an important question.
It can take years just to find what you want in an F2 or F3 if you
can only grow a few plants of a generation. I have hit something
with superb flavor in an F3 growing only 7 plants, and then
grown 20-25 of the F4s from those saved seeds without finding
one with comparably good flavor.

greensparrow September 8, 2011 10:27 AM

My early lines are all still either cherry sized or a bit bigger. I'm aiming for some in the small to medium size range, perhaps fist sized or a bit bigger, but flavor is always a much higher priority for me, so size might take a while to achieve.
I grow 50-60 plants for my F2 populations, and then knock those numbers down in subsequent generations depending on how much variability I'm still seeing. One trick I use to maximize the number of seedlings I can evaluate is to make selections as early in their growth as I can. If I have room for 50 mature plants, I'll sow 100 and space them very tightly. The first 50 to show flower buds get to stay, the others get pulled out. Anything with poor flavor gets yanked as soon as I evaluate it as well, so I can then focus on a much smaller number of plants to evaluate yield, disease resistance, plant habit, etc.

dice September 8, 2011 11:15 AM

Right, the more plants of a single generation you can grow, the faster
you get to something worth stabilizing and the more lines you can

travis September 8, 2011 03:56 PM

I'm working on early lines bred from old standard, heat-setting, Midwestern university varieties. So far the results are 2-1/2" to 3" red canners, slicers, or "salad" tomatoes. The earliest so far are 120 days from direct seed to full ripe average in the first fruits, or about 66 days DTM from transplanting 7-week-old starts.

I started with a determinate cultivar from University of Missouri that has an 80 DTM from transplant average every time I've grown it, and crossed to a heat setting indeterminate from University of Nebraska said to have a 70 DTM from transplant.

The F1 in 2010 made full color in about 72 days from transplant. Then this year, several of the F2s made a 65 - 68 day trip from transplant to full ripe.

The heaviest yielding, earliest, and longest yielding F2s were all what I would call semi-indeterminate with regular, uninterupted sets of 3 and 4 fruit per truss every second or third internode. I'm calling it semi-ind. because most of the sets were in the 2nd internode, while some of the sets were directly opposite the 3rd leaf node above the previous set. The fully determinate F2s were a bit disappointing in the yield department.

After asking a couple of people who should know, I was told it's not unusual for the offspring to go earlier than either parent. I don't know if this is a result of hybrid vigor, or if the earliness will persist down thru subsequent generations when open pollinated. However, this year I outcrossed the F2s to an even earlier subtropical determinate from IFAS to try for 60 - 65 day F1s next summer.

TheLoud September 12, 2011 11:27 PM

Thanks for sharing, everyone.

As for how many plants I have room for, that's actually up in the air now, since I might be moving soon. I guess this means I have time to plan a breeding program carefully before doing it.

Greensparrow, you say, "One of the earliest tomatoes I've grown is from a cross between MWC and Black Krim. Flavor is also exceptional." That's intriguing. What stage of breeding is this at? And I like your idea to crowd plants together for the sake of fitting more in your test plot.

Frogsleap, it sounds like you're doing what I was planning, but you're way ahead of me. How many plants did you have to grow in the F2 generation to find something worth selecting? Also, even if most plants weren't exceptional enough to select, did they still produce decent tomatoes that were worth eating? I'm imagining this project taking up space that I'd otherwise devote to known good varieties, and I don't want to deprive myself of tomatoes for the sake of this project.

Dice, if you're having trouble finding big tomatoes in your F2s, what if you instead backcrossed your F1 to the larger-fruited variety, and selected from that instead? Those plants would have genes that are 1/4 from the smaller-fruited variety and 3/4 from the larger-fruited variety, and would be more likely to have the large fruit you seek. Of course, then they might lack the earliness you were hoping to get from the smaller-fruited variety, but it might be worth the experiment.

dice September 13, 2011 05:49 AM


Of course, then they might lack the earliness you were hoping to get from the smaller-fruited variety, but it might be worth the experiment.
Right, the larger fruited parents are usually mid-season or later varieties
that I liked, so I hesitate to go backward in DTM. I would probably cross
a small but delicious F2 to something mid-sized with known disease
tolerances to boost size and get some selections that preserve
the disease tolerance.

greensparrow September 13, 2011 06:23 PM

The Loud,
I'm growing crosses between the earliest and best tasting F2s from that population and some other varieties this year. I love the flavor and earliness, but they split horribly, yield is low, and the Matt's Wild Cherry ancestry gives them huge sprawling vines.

goodwin September 13, 2011 11:40 PM

This is really interesting. I think we should do some parallel trials next season. I have some wild crosses (to L. hirsutum) which show promise at 100 days from seed that I could throw into the mix. Some are dwarf. They are F3, F4. Should we trade some seed around? What do you folks think?

greensparrow September 15, 2011 08:36 PM

I'd love to trade seeds! Your wild crosses sound fascinating. I've been wanting to add L. hirsutum to my breeding for a while.

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