Beale, B.1; Leslie, A.2
1Extension Educator, University of Maryland, Leonardtown, MD, 20650
2Extension Educator, University of Maryland, Bel Alton, MD, 20611


    Grafting high tunnel tomatoes has shown to improve plant vigor, yield, and disease resistance, however grafting also is more expensive. In sites with limited rotation and thus high disease and pest pressure, the added expense is easily justified but in new sites with low disease inoculum the utility of grafting is still uncertain.  A study was undertaken in 2019 to examine the effect of grafting on tomato performance of four cultivars in a new high tunnel site with no history of vegetable production and very low disease and pest pressure. The study utilized a randomized complete block design with five replications. Cultivars Red Deuce, Red Mountain, BHN 589 and Mountain Fresh Plus were randomly assigned within each replication row. Each cultivar replication contained three plants grafted to Maxifort root stock and three own-rooted plants. The trial utilized standard horticultural practices throughout the growing season.  Fruit were harvested over a 60 day period as they ripened and were separated by size and quality using the standard USDA grading system. Total mass and fruit number were recorded for each grade. A consumer survey of taste and overall quality was conducted at area farmers markets. Data was analyzed and means separated using the Tukey's Honest Significant Difference test. Results indicate grafting had significant effect on overall yield with grafted cultivars accumulating greater mass of fruit (P value .001). In addition, when comparing LG/XL fruit, both main effects of cultivar and grafting were significant, with grafted plants exhibited a greater mass of LG/XL fruit, and cultivars Red Deuce and Red Mountain yielding significantly better than BHN 589 and Mountain Fresh Plus. When overall value was tabulated, grafting resulting in higher net return for cultivars Red Mountain, BHN 589 and Mountain Fresh Plus.

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