Pushing The Bounds on Tomato Taste, Nutrition, and Yield

Tons of Tasty Cherry Tomatoes

We ran a small test in 2015 to see what kind of results we would get planting a single cherry tomato. We started with a special large hole planting method and followed the complete fertility recommendations from International Ag Labs based on the soil test. The results were nothing short of amazing. At the end of August we counted 2,904 tomatoes and the final count when frost killed the plant we had 4,257 tomatoes on 166 clusters. This is an insane amount of tomatoes from one plant!

Everybody we’ve talked to has been very enthusiastic about the cherry tomato results. Some farmers said they’ve never seen such a large tomato plant, and were impressed with the flavor and sweetness. When they heard we’re going to scale to a very large test pilot, they expressed eagerness to stay in the loop and see the results.

The Tomato Project

We are currently working on setting up a larger trial for 2016 called, “The Tomato Project – Pushing the Bounds on Tomato Taste, Nutrition, and Yield”. We anticipate local and national visibility and exposure to a large number of commercial growers and quality minded home gardeners.

Extreme Trellising

The Tomato Project will utilize a new [experimental] way of trellising tomatoes – each plant will have 16 stems running HORIZONTAL on high tensil trellis wires. The plot consists of 7 rows that are 120 feet long with 16 horizontal wires running the length of each row. This results in about 3 miles of trellis wire! Each plant has a tomato cage with 4 rings and then there are “jumper wires” that run from the cage to the main trellis wires. There is over 4 miles of jumper wire! The purpose is to grow more fruit in less space by training the stems in a systematic fashion. This allows maximize solar conversion and also ease of harvesting, nutrient application and disease resistance.

Full Spectrum Fertility

The success of the entire project is based on the careful attention and effort to remineralize and balance the soil as well as support and build the soil life. The quality and nutrition of any fruit or vegetable will vary based on the minerals available in the soil as the plant is growing. The main focus of this effort is to optimize the soil with minerals and biology to create a highly nutrient rich environment. When the soil is properly addressed, the plants grown can pick up all the minerals and nutrients needed to reach their full genetic potential. The results are increased nutrition, flavor and ultimate health value.

Three of the rows involve the large planting holes (3’ wide and 3’ deep). These holes are then built up with topsoil, compost, minerals, rock, and drain tile in a specific fashion. We will also be utilizing a conductivity meter to monitor soil energy and fertigate based on the nutrient requirements shown from the soil test.

More Tomatoes in Less Space

We intend to show how to increase the fruit density in a fixed space. Each row will effectively contain 4 rows of tomatoes and the resulting crop is easy to maintain, fertilize and harvest. There are a lot of commercial greenhouse growers focusing on just tomatoes and are the ones who would most likely benefit from using this extreme trellising system (also cucumbers, melons, beans, etc).

Who Will Benefit?

  1. Backyard Gardeners – We work with many quality-minded gardeners who strive to achieve the very best. These are highly motivated growers and usually don’t mind going the extra mile to strive for the best.
  2. Commercial Greenhouse Growers – Many of our clients have dedicated greenhouses for tomatoes. If our hypothesis is correct this method could be very attractive to indoor growers.
  3. Outdoor Growers – We’re not sure if the extreme trellising to be of value to the typical outdoor grower, but we’ll find out. One of the consultants that observed the cherry tomato indicated the proposed trellising actually could be of value to certain outdoor growers. He mentioned the benefit of keeping the plants 3’ off the ground and the potential to mitigate fungal issues. He mentioned that Europeans typically spend more time trellising than we do in the US and that this actually could be very beneficial for small to medium sized commercial growers. He specifically mentioned cucumbers, melons, and certain berry cultivars (in addition to the tomatoes). He thought there could be multiple applications and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the whole project.

How Do We Measure Success?

Some of the factors we will monitor are:

  1. Flavor – formal taste testing
  2. Brix Readings – measured with a refractometer
  3. Nutrient Content – lab analysis with comparisons to other local tomatoes and USDA averages
  4. Yield – Total harvested pounds per plant by the week, month and season
  5. Plant health – general observations on which fertility methods help the plants function best

Overview of Fertility Plans

  1. Control Groups
  2. Organic Method
  3. Three Fertility Methods from International Ag Labs planted in the ground
  4. Same Three Fertility Methods from International Ag Labs using the Large Hole planting method

Current Varieties

Gold Medal

Cherokee Purple

Pink Berkley Tie-Dye

Caspian Pink

Dixie Golden

 

Delicious

 

Green Zebra

San Marzano

 

Early Girl

 

Better Boy