High Tunnel Cherry and Grape Tomato Variety Trial 2011

High Tunnel acreage in the Mid-Atlantic continues to grow due to improvements in tomato quality and earlier harvests in crops grown in tunnels.
High Tunnel Cherry and Grape Tomato Variety Trial 2011 - Articles
High Tunnel Cherry and Grape Tomato Variety Trial 2011

Introduction

For the past 11 years, we've been evaluating a wide variety of tomatoes under field conditions and since 2009, planted the trial in the new Haygrove Super Solo tunnel at the Penn State Southeast Research and Extension Center (SEAREC) near Manheim, PA.

Although still less than 5% of the tomato market, the fastest growing segment of the tomato pie are cherry and grape tomatoes. High packout percentage and another 2-3 weeks of earliness over slicing types make cherry and grape tomatoes ideal for tunnel tomato marketing. We've always included a few varieties in our trials program, but have included those results with the slicers. This report on cherry and grape types is separated out as this market continues to grow in importance.

Variety comments

Five Star

2011 was the first year for this variety from Johnny's Seeds. Both the commercial and consumer tasting panels gave it high marks for flavor and appearance. It has very few seeds and compares well with Smarty (our trial standard) based on yield. Tasters found it to have more tomato flavor while still having the characteristic sweetness of a grape tomato.

Red Pearl

This is another Johnny's Seeds variety. It rated very high with our consumer tasting panel, but was determined to be just another grape-type by the commercial growers. It was also a little soft on yield. The catalog labels it as having intermediate Late blight resistance, so that may be this varieties strong point. With no Late blight affecting the tunnel trials in 2011, no comparisons are available.

Sakura Honey

This pink grape tomato packs amazing flavor as tasters continually went back for more. If you are looking for a variety that will help you stand out at market, this may be the one. Excellent production, beautiful appearance and reasonable packout make Sakura Honey a real winner.

Smarty

Smarty or Smarty Grape has been our trial standard for red grape tomatoes for several years due to consistent yields, low cull rate and high brix levels. This year's trial was no different with Smarty demonstrating high yields and minimal culls.

Solid Gold

We've had many yellow grape and cherry tomatoes in our trials over the years, but could never find one from either category to compete with Sun Gold on flavor. Sun Gold has high production and amazing flavor, but cracks easily. Solid Gold comes close enough to Sun Gold in flavor while providing crack resistance and yields that commercial growers need.

Sweet Treats

With the exception of Sun Gold we seldom plant cherry tomatoes in our trials program due to the splitting of the fruit pre and post harvest. Sweet Treats (Sakata Seeds) may make us rethink that prohibition. This variety had the highest yields of the program with great tasting, beautiful fruit that run just a little large for a cherry tomato. Of the 6 varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes in this year's program, Sweet Treats kept producing as the temperatures cooled and the others no longer ripened their fruit.

VarietyYield for 10 plantsYields per acre at 5,808 plants per acreCull percentageAverage sizeBrix
Sweet Treats144.3 lb83,798 lb12%.64 oz7.1
Red Pearl53.56 lb32,850 lb12%.23 oz7.3
Sakura Honey84.03 lb48,804 lb11%.4 oz7.2
Solid Gold79.61 lb46,237 lb9%.29 oz6.8
Smarty87.92 lb51,064 lb6.50%.27 oz8
Five Star87.36 lb50,739 lb7%.3 oz7.8