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Direct Seeded, Dry Farmed, Exserted, and Self Incompatible Tomatoes in Montana

Trying to breed tomatoes in Montana, but would like my varieties to do well when direct seeded. Have also realized that I greatly value the potential of exserted stigma plants to outcross, and am collaborating with Joseph Lofthouse on his wild species hybridization self incompatible tomato project which I eventually hope to incorporate fully with all four of my own goals.

I have now been direct seeding tomatoes for three years inspired by a few volunteers that made just a few ripe fruits in 2016. I have also been growing wild and wild hybrid tomatoes for the last three years.

Goal 1: Direct Seeded Tomatoes, this is looking very doable and I will be growing out an F3 population of at least one variety bred under these conditions. It is descended from Blue Ambrosia and Amurski Tigr both of which work for me direct seeded and I am tentatively calling it Exserted Tiger.

Goal 2: Selecting for exserted stigmas

Goal 3: Tasty self incompatible tomatoes short enough season to direct seed. Will be working on the tasty part this year and not so much the direct seeding part. Though I may manage to grow enough seed this year of the F2 population I am growing out this year to try direct seeding the F3 next year. I do have enough seed of other wild hybrids to potentially direct seed this year if I have space. This goal of my project is a subset of a larger project Joseph Lofthouse is doing to develop self incompatible tomatoes.

Goal 4: Dry Farming, I never watered my main patch last year. It did rain regularly though and unusually so it wasn't a good test. However, it seems possible that this might be a very achievable goal here.

Researcher background
Botanist with a large garden in Montana interested in amateur vegetable breeding. Have been following the exploits of plant breeder Joseph Lofthouse for a couple of years. Deeply interested in his tomato projects.

Pleasantly surprised to find that direct seeding and at least in a good year dry farming works fairly well for me.

One very important reason to try to incorporate wild germplasm and why Joseph has his self incompatible project of which this is a subset, is that domestic tomato germplasm is counterintuitively extremely narrow in diversity at the genetic level. Most of the diversity we see in variety numbers and apparent variation in tomatoes is all very superficial. This means tomatoes are very susceptible. So if we can get tomatoes to outbreed like tomatillos already do by incorporating the necessary traits from wild species such as Solanum habrochaites and Solanum penellii, we think we can change that very rapidly. So basically I am doing this because it may help save tomatoes as a viable organically grown crop for future generations and greatly increase it's resiliency.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
No, do not require volunteers.
Is this a multi-year project?
Anything else?
I can be contacted through my company website
Researcher Location

United States

Project Updates

Tomato Planting Time Soon

project update by
Saturday, February 27, 2021 - 06:02

In two weeks I'll have spring break and my opportunity to start tomatoes. 2020 was an enormously successful year. I pledged a variety called "Exserted Tiger" to the open source seed initiative. It may someday relatively soon become available through Snake River Seed Coop. I grew out the third generation of "Exserted Orange" and pledged it. It is currently available on EFN's store.

In 2021 I have a couple tomato seed orders for so will be growing Exserted Orange isolated again. Exserted Tiger I will skip a year with as a seed crop. I will instead be growing a seed crop for Snake River of a fun but closed flowered variety that I may be calling "Mission Mountain Sunrise" after my local mountain range. Its a small fruited, early, blue skinned bicolor, for me the plants are small and it seems to both start and finish early. I plan to pledge it to OSSI as well.

These varieties are really stepping stones. Exserted Tiger is a vehicle for getting stripes and blue skin into other varieties. Exserted Orange is a source of orange flesh. Mission Mountain Sunrise has blue color and is early- to me its the perfect tomato to cross with Big Hill to get a exserted blue bicolor that is short season for the north. So that is my future plans.

All of the varieties I am developing and or their ancestors have survived my various tomato torture regimens where I've tried things like not watering and direct seeding and early planting.

In 2020 I grew out both my own saved seed and Joseph's seed of the BH x Wild4 crosses. I direct seeded my seed and it was unremarkable except that it thrived and produced under the direct seeding regimen. I have enough remarkable seed from Josephs 2019 selections to direct seed the promiscuous project again this year and based on how the parents did I expect the result to be remarkable. I will probably focus on promiscuous bicolors. This population will not be isolated- in fact I hope that some proportion of it is fully promiscuous and donates pollen to wild type habrochaites cytoplasm plants. Very similar seed is available in three different selections from Joseph on EFN's store.

I also have some special seed that Joseph selected in 2020 that I will be growing out in isolation in 2021. It should be more closely obligate outcrossing.

Fall Harvest and Seed Saving

project update by
Friday, September 11, 2020 - 11:14

Have been saving a lot of seeds. Pictured is some variation that segregated from a Golden Tressette that had a blue blush last year. Also one putative cross. Much of garden got frosted but still have some. Saving tomato seeds as fast as I can.

2020 Tomato Starts

project update by
Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 03:40

The main population for 2020 is G2 plants of Big Hill x W? Including some fresh seeds Joseph sent of Big Hill x WXL and Big Hill x Wbest of 2019 mix. Though also growing multiple 72 cell trays of Big Hill x W4 from the 13 plants I grew out in 2019 all of which had boringly wild type fruits and seemed to all be habrochaites crosses but also all seemed to be one copy carriers of the obligate out crossing gene based on their dropped flowers. There will be a very good chance to get some tasty fruit this year. I am liable to direct seed a row or two adjacent to keep the direct seeding in the project. I will grow a few odds and ends domestics with this as well as pollen flow is unidirectional with the obligately out crossing populations.

Population two is some plants not ready for prime time. So they are taking an isolation slot. Including a couple populations one penellii the other habrochaites that are about 75% wild with with wild ancestor as the cytoplasm mother. Joseph has a thought that these may not accept pollen that is S broken. So no recessive selfing genes here. However also expected to be pretty wild and unpalatable so far.

Population three is my hope that one peruvianum grown with penellii will accept penellii pollen. The latest iteration of my hope to get peruvianum into a cross. This will be the smallest population.

Populations four and five will be F3 domestic exserteds one I am calling exserted tiger and the other exserted orange hill.

Population six is a contract grow out not in the project. It will get a prime spot, which I think will not be the one originally envisioned.

Population 7 will be a pure Big Hill grow out for seed. A Joseph Lofthouse bred domestic with exserted stigma on a easy to work with beefsteak flower.

Promiscuously pollinated tomatoes

project update by
Friday, April 17, 2020 - 11:25

I've been following Jospeh Lofthouse's plant breeding efforts for a couple of years now, especially his great work with tomatoes and squashes. I'm in Western Oregon, growing without irrigation using seeds I got from him in 2018, and saving seed particularly from open-flowering tomatoes. I would be interested in exchanging seeds with others who are growing open-flowering tomatoes and genetically diverse short-season tomatoes in any climate.