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George E. Boyhan, Suzzanne Tate, Ryan McNeill and Jeffrey McConnaughey

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a popular crop among organic growers, particularly open-pollinated varieties; however, there is a lack of information evaluating these varieties in comparison with commercial F1 hybrids. This study was undertaken to compare conventionally produced commercial F1 tomato varieties available in the southeastern United States with open-pollinated varieties popular among organic growers. Nineteen tomato varieties were evaluated in 2011 and 2012 using the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program guidelines; however, the land used had not been in 3 years of organic production. Staked tomatoes were grown on plastic mulch. Data collected included early and total graded yield. In general, F1 hybrid, determinate or semideterminate varieties, had the best early and total yields compared with open-pollinated varieties. HSX 8115H and ‘Celebrity’ had the highest early total yield. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’, an open-pollinated variety, also had good early total yield, but significantly less than HSX 8115H or ‘Celebrity’. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’ was the only open-pollinated variety among the five highest yielding varieties for early total yield. In addition, ‘Celebrity’ had the greatest total yield of all the entries tested. All of the top five varieties for total yield were F1 hybrids and either determinate or semideterminate types. ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’ had total yield of 22,046 lb/acre, which was 14.3% lower than the lowest yielding variety in the top five yielding varieties. ‘Florida Pink’ had the largest average fruit weight, which also had the lowest total yield of all the entries. Although the open-pollinated varieties, popular among organic and local growers, yielded less than F1 hybrids, they may possess characteristics of color, flavor, or texture that are desired and were not evaluated in this study. This may be an opportunity for plant breeders to develop varieties desired by local organic growers that have unique characteristics, in addition to high yields and disease resistance.

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George E. Boyhan, Suzanne O’Connell, Ryan McNeill and Suzanne Stone

Organic production is a fast-growing sector of agriculture in need of variety evaluations under their unique production systems. This study evaluated 16 watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) varieties for their performance characteristics under organic production practices. Plants were grown on plastic mulch-covered beds on land that had been certified organic in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. Six of the entries were F1 hybrids; the remaining entries were open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Of the 10 OP varieties, three were considered heirloom varieties, including Cream of Saskatchewan, Georgia Rattlesnake, and Moon & Stars. ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’ was the highest yielding variety and had the greatest average fruit weight. Along with ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’, ‘Nunhems 800’, ‘Nunhems 860’, ‘Orangeglo’, and ‘SSX 8585’ were included in the top five yielding varieties. The top five yielding varieties had fruit size that averaged more than 20 lb. Fruit size correlated with rind thickness, with lighter fruit having thinner rind (Pearson’s correlation, r = 0.779), which is not unexpected. ‘Sangria’ had the greatest average soluble solids content at 11.2%, which was greater than all entries with soluble solids less than 10%.