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Charles E. Barrett, Xin Zhao, Charles A. Sims, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Eric Q. Dreyer and Zhifeng Gao

Grafting has many purposes in vegetable production. It is used for control of soilborne pathogens, season extension in protected culture, and improving productivity in cucurbitaceous and solanaceous crops. Consumers desire heirloom tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) for their perceived excellent flavor. Heirloom tomatoes are susceptible to many soilborne diseases and may benefit from grafting onto more robust, disease-resistant rootstocks especially under organic production. In this two-year study, heirloom tomato ‘Brandywine’ was grafted onto tomato hybrid ‘Survivor’ and interspecific tomato hybrid ‘Multifort’ rootstocks to determine the effects of grafting on fruit quality attributes such as soluble solids content (SSC), pH, total titratable acidity (TTA), and vitamin C. Nongrafted and self-grafted ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes were included as controls. Consumer sensory tests were also conducted to assess the effects of grafting on overall appearance and acceptability, firmness, tomato flavor, and sweetness. No significant differences in vitamin C, SSC, pH, or TTA were found in fruit from the nongrafted, self-grafted, and ‘Brandywine’ grafted with the two rootstocks either year. The SSC of all tomatoes in 2010 was lower than that of 2011. In 2010, fruit from ‘Brandywine’ grafted onto the rootstock ‘Survivor’ was scored significantly lower in appearance, acceptability, and flavor than the nongrafted ‘Brandywine’ treatment. All grafted treatments resulted in a significant decrease in acceptability ratings in the consumer sensory test. No significant differences were observed between nongrafted and grafted treatments in 2011. Consumers who reported more frequent consumption of fresh tomato tended to give lower ratings for most sensory attributes evaluated. Harvest time and fruit ripeness need to be considered in future research to better understand the influence of grafting with selected rootstocks on fruit composition and sensory attributes of heirloom tomatoes.