Comparison of Direct Seed versus Transplant Yield and Fruit Quality of Processing Tomatoes in the Southern Sacramento Valley

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  • 1 1Univ. of California, Cooperative Extension, Woodland, CA, 95695
  • 2 2U.C. Davis, Plant Sciences, Davis, CA, 95616
  • 3 3Yolo County, U.C. Cooperative Extension, Woodland, CA, 95695

Canning tomato transplants were compared to direct seed in field trials to evaluate fruit yield and quality. Trials were conducted either at the University of California at Davis Long Term Research on Sustainable Agriculture field facility or in a commercial direct-seeded tomato field near Woodland. To closely match harvest dates of both propagation methods, transplants were mechanically planted after direct-seeded plants approached the 2 to 3 true-leaf stage. Trial design was replicated, factorial with propagation method and with plant population comparisons. Populations were 8712, 6534, 5227, and 4356 planting units per acre. Direct-seeded plots were thinned to clumps of three plants centered on 12, 16, 20, or 24 inches between clumps within the seed line. Transplants were 6-week-old, commercial, greenhouse-grown plants that were mechanically planted to match the direct-seed spacing. Plant rows were single lines per bed centered on 5 feet. The entire 100-foot plot length was mechanically harvested into specially designed portable weigh trailers to measure yield. Fruit yield between direct-seed and transplants were similar in two of the 3 years. In one of the 3 years, production problems were encountered resulting in low overall yield, but significantly lower with the transplants. `Halley', a cultivar common in the region, was used in all of the test years. Transplant yields were slightly reduced linearly as spacing between plants increased while yield from direct seed was less affected. Fruit quality tended to be similar among the treatments.

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