Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunglolds and Bottlenecking

This year I might do something that I haven't done in any of my previous nine years of farming: not plant any sungold tomatoes (even though this picture makes them look mouthwatering).  They have been the standard for cherry tomato sweetness and have a great color, and won the Tomato Taste-off all the years we were at Quail Hill Farm.  For the past two years I've had so much splitting - and I feel like the taste has been dropping off earlier and earlier each year.  This description from Johnny's says alot
Exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes leave customers begging for more. Vigorous plants start yielding early and bear right through the season. Tendency to split precludes shipping, making these an exclusively fresh-market treat. The taste can't be beat.

You know if the catalogue is admitting splitting then there is some major splitting.  So instead I am looking at this one from FEDCO 

WOW! Cherry Tomato OG (58 days) Ind. An open-pollinated cherry tomato better than Sun Gold? That’s been the holy grail of tomato breeders. Garland, ME, breeder Relentless and our tasters think he may have it: the orange color, the Sun Gold Brix with more tomatoey flavor and an added resistance to cracking. A selection from Relentless’ SunWine group with Brandywine, Sun Gold and a grape tomato in the parentage. Nearly fully stabilized; this is the F-8 generation. Earth Passionate Agrarian™–grown. Open source seeds.  

This is what we farmers do during the winter, puzzle, like an eye doctor going, "A, or B, B or C . . . "  I like that WOW is open Pollinated.  To me it indicates that it will be easier to keep a healthy gene pool going once it is stabilized, but here is where my knowledge is really fuzzy (or made-up), so correct me if you know something about how seed population bottleneck.  Is this how it always happens in commercial agriculture.  Maybe it's par for the course and it shouldn't seem as weird as it does: we have really bred these plants, almost all the ones that are on our fields, to be good at one thing, so it should be no surprise that they are a little fragile genetically.  I felt like this same thing happened to Merlot lettuce.  A beautiful color, and it used to have reasonably sized heads.  But over the years they started to shrink and shrink, and now if you read the seed catalog it says

This Merlot adds as much to your baby salad mix as a good wine adds to your dinner, providing incredible color, excitement and full-bodied flavor. Slow to grow, slow to bolt, plants never achieve much size or density, but are ideal for the baby leaf trade. Not for mature-head production,  

It did not always say that about the size.  I also felt like a lot of my FEDCO brassicas were bottlenecking and getting just generally weaker, so I switched a bunch to Johnny's last year which I think worked well.

Does anyone want my weather prediction?  After this next few days, nothing lower than twenty and basically a trend towards spring.  See you then. 


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