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UNH researchers develop heartier, higher-yielding cherry tomato



UNH researchers have developed a more resilient cherry tomato.
UNH researchers have developed a more resilient cherry tomato.

A new fruit that grows suspended in the air is pink, round, small and has been developed here at UNH, as a better option than the regular, fat, red, and large cherry tomato.

Becky Sideman, a researcher with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and extension professor of sustainable horticulture production, has developed a new cherry tomato called Rambling Rose.

This use of regular cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets is a struggle, and often does not work well. The best variety of cherry tomatoes is called Tumbler, but it is expensive, has bad growth habits, is not very available, and the alternatives to Tumbler had problems, making farmers frustrated.

Rambling Rose is more suitable for hanging basket growth, and is more readily available to farmers due to its comparably better overall fruit quality, earliness, yield, and growth habit than other cherry tomatoes.

However, the development did not occur overnight.

Jennifer Noseworthy, a graduate student of Sideman’s, was teaching a horticulture class at UNH, and Sideman talked to her about developing a cherry tomato.

“I said, you know it would be really cool if we went and collected all the tomato varieties that are supposed to do well in hanging baskets and see if any of them are decent, and basically evaluate all these varieties,” Sideman said. 

“So she [Noseworthy], in her horticulture class, grew all of these dozen varieties, that they could find,” Sideman explained, “and it was really Jennifer’s work with her original horticulture class that started the whole project off. The class actually collected data and they got that, which was the foundation for the whole project.” 

“They were all really cruddy compared to Tumbler, which was the best one,” Sideman said explaining the data results. “Yet Tumbler wasn’t very available because it was a hybrid and so we just started the breeding process there and pollinated Tumbler.”

Sideman and Noseworthy started segregating what they wanted and grew the cherry tomatoes. The process took about six years from start to finish.

“It’s not like taking a lot of time at any given moment, you know?” Sideman said. “You’re sort of keeping it on the back burner.”

“It was a great straightforward project that wasn’t too hard and it was great for two students to work on, Sideman added, “and plant breeding is not the main part of my job here so it was a perfect little side project to work on.”

Elisabeth Hodgdon, another graduate student, wanting to learn something about plant breeding, picked up the project for a couple of years.

Sideman and Hodgdon decided it was ready after evaluating it several times, giving it to farmers to try, and getting feedback.

The research findings were reported in the June 2015 issue of HortScience in the article “Rambling Rose: A Pink-fruited Cherry Tomato for Hanging Basket Production.”

The next step for Rambling Rose is to find a seed company that will produce, carry and sell the seed so people can have it.

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