Tomato research highlight of field day

Intermittent rains didn’t stop commercial tomato growers from viewing outdoor exhibits and touring the greenhouse tomato operation during a recent tomato field day at the LSU AgCenter’s Red River Research Station in Bossier City, La.

H.Y. Hanna gave 60 growers attending the 12th annual event “hands-on experience.” Hanna is an LSU AgCenter researcher at the station who is in charge of the greenhouse tomato project.

The free four-hour event covered a variety of subjects on greenhouse tomato production and management.

Hanna encouraged growers to use perlite, which he has been doing for 12 years. “It is as good as or better than the first day we bought the material,” he said about recycled perlite, which has produced better yields than other media.

The LSU AgCenter expert also recommended growing the Quest variety. “We are so pleased,” he said. “It is a shiny fruit and at the very minimum has only fine cracks on the shoulder.”

Hanna said Quest had the best shelf life in a research study, with one week of marketability when kept at a room temperature of 68 degrees day and night.

He also mentioned Geronimo as a promising new variety.

The best temperature for the tomato root system is 70 to 75 degrees. “The root system is out of sight, and many people don’t pay attention to it,” Hanna said. “If you have a good root system, you have a good plant.”

Hanna advised growers not to leave scarred fruit on a plant. “If you do, it takes energy from the healthy fruit,” he said. “It is a mismanagement to leave bad fruit on a plant.”

He also called bumblebee pollination, raised gutters and grafting the three major innovations in growing tomatoes during the past 20 years. Grafting is very popular in Canada, and Hanna has been there to study that system.

“Energy savings will be the next big breakthrough,” he said.

Workshop visitors also viewed ways to plant tomato seeds for better germination and learned about tissue and nutrient analysis and water quality.

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