Tomato Varietal Improvement

This webinar took place on March 7, 2017.


Organic vegetable growers need varieties that are optimally adapted to their farming systems. In this webinar, participants will describe how to develop and select improved vegetable varieties using the breeding component of the tomato organic management and improvement (TOMI) project as an example. The goal of this project component is to develop new tomato varieties that are resistant to the most problematic diseases facing organic tomato growers, and have the good fruit flavor that customers expect from heirloom varieties. Specific topics will include: identifying key traits, choosing appropriate parents and a selection approach, making crosses, selecting from segregating populations for desirable traits, using genetic markers to aid in selection for key traits, and saving seed.

About the Presenters

• Julie Dawson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her background is in organic plant breeding and participatory research. Research topics include season extension methods, organic and participatory variety trials and variety selection for direct-market farms and gardens as well as extension resources for urban growers.

• Dan Egel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University. His current research interests include: host resistance to anthracnose and Fusarium wilt of watermelon; managing fungicide resistance in foliar pathogens; and, management of vegetable diseases in greenhouses. Dan’s extension mission is to encourage the sustainable production of healthy vegetables through the use of integrated pest management and organic systems.

• Lori Hoagland is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. The goal of her research is to identify practical approaches to manipulate the plant microbiome, favoring beneficial microbial taxa that can help plants acquire nutrients and withstand biotic and abiotic stress. Current projects are aimed at biologically controlling plant and human pathogens, improving nitrogen-use efficiency, and mitigating uptake and bioavailability of heavy metals in vegetable crops.

• Laurie McKenzie is the research and education assistant for Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). Laurie has over 10 years of experience in the organic farming and seed world, having spent considerable time doing both production and direct marketing. At OSA Laurie is involved in coordinating field work for breeding and variety trial projects, writing educational guides and materials, and co-teaching on-farm workshops.

• James Myers is a Professor of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. He works on a number of crops including dry and snap bean, edible podded pea, broccoli, pepper, tomato, winter and summer squash, and sweet corn. His main interest has been to improve vegetable varieties for disease resistance and human nutrition while maintaining quality and productivity in improved varieties.

• Kara Young is a graduate student studying Vegetable Breeding and Genetics under the direction of Jim Myers in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. The focus of her research is developing late blight resistant tomatoes that are adapted to organic production. While at Oregon State University, Kara has been involved with the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement Project (TOMI) and the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC).

• Jared Zystro is the Research and Education Assistant Director for Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). He has worked in the organic seed industry for over 10 years, managing seed production at two farms and conducting research and education projects with OSA. In his work at OSA, he manages regional development in California, conducts participatory breeding projects and variety trials, and teaches farmers about seed production and plant breeding at workshops, conferences, and field days.

Published January 10, 2017

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.