Dwarf Tomato Breeding Video (OSSI Webinar)

I found this webinar on the huge dwarf tomato breeding project to be super inspiring when I watched it, I think I immediately ran out and got some seeds of some of the varieties to play with.

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Some things that were very important for them:
-it’s no longer really officially going
-splitting Aus and the US slowed down on the pace of development (can’t send seeds back and forth anymore and do 2 grows/year)
-folks don’t always return seed when you send it to them to work on varieties, but there’s a lot of seed so that’s ok
-they tried really hard to keep it easily accessible for new folks
-there are a TON of different dwarfs that came out of this
-record keeping took a lot of work
-the first year after a cross, the F1, can be really boring but the F2 can still be full of great things or maybe even the F3. Stick with it
-use a dwarf or potato leaf mother, that way you can tell which seedlings were crossed (because the father theoretically is a non-dwarf or reg leaf, which is dominant, so the crosses will be non-dwarf or RL)
-dwarf plants can be more prone to disease because they’re denser but they can also be easier to maintain without falling over etc
-marketing was all word of mouth and it worked well

Some things that made me perk up my ears:
-they may now be working on some disease resistance for places like Florida
-in the USA
-Craig LeHoullier has a big stash of seed he might be willing to part with some of if you’re friendly, approach him, and tell him what you are interested in specifically
-Patrina in Aus didn’t extend the same offer as above but I got the sense there was crossed seed floating around there too
-one cross can lead to an incredible amount of variety from F2 onwards, many of their very different tomatoes originated in the same cross
-they got lots of interested people

Some things it made me think:
-Why not just grow out from the F2 onwards as a landrace? You wouldn’t need to select just one to name and refine. The F1s tended to sound boring so a bunch of F1s may not be great
-Landrace breeding is way easier than what they did. I wonder how many folks are interested in F2/F3/unstabilized seed to landrace, rather than to select from?
-What would it look like to do a bunch of crosses on some unstabilized dwarf plants (F2 or F3 or whatever) and some very exserted plants like Exserted Orange or that other one William Schlegel made, Exserted Tiger (or any particularly outcrossing one from the Lofthouse mixes or wild ones)? What would a dwarf outcrossing tomato landrace look like?
-Holy there’s an “ochre” fruit that’s a combination of black/purple and green, those are my favourite flavours, I want that
-Maybe I should contact Craig and see if he has some green & black or early stuff spare, for me to play with
-I should buy dwarf tomato seeds from Victory Seeds, who have all of them (this is the only one I’ve implemented yet, ha!)

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Based on some 10 or so of those that I have tried they aren’t the fastest, atleast week but many 2-3 weeks behind fastest varieties I have had. Maybe it’s the enviroments they have been bred? There are some good qualities and I have kept couple varieties that I will use in my own breeding. I bought some amount of new dwarf varieties to test for next year plus some bush tomatoes. Target would be dwarf/bush type that is fast and has other colours than red. Generally it’s reds that are fastest although I have some yellow that are as fast or faster than the ones I have tried. Not sure if it’s from dwarf project or if it’s even available there, but could recommend yantarnuy (spelling might differ). It’s small dwarf type 40-50cm tall with yellow small to medium (up to 100g) fruits. It’s the only that has ripened all fruits by end of august from 8.4 sowing. Very prolific for it’s size. Got 13kg from just over 1m2.

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@Greenstorm, I was involved in the Australian half of the dwarf tomato project early on and did a number of the early crosses. Since the split, imposed by Australian Biosecurity essentially, Patrina, here in Australia, has pretty much been a one woman show and age, mid 70s I think, is catching up with her so she doesn’t do nearly as much as she used to.
The initial aim of the project was to broaden the offering in dwarf varieties and that aim was very successfully fulfilled. No one thought about landraces. In fact, during the early years I had never heard of such things and I’m pretty sure most of the other participants hadn’t heard of landraces either.

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Yes, absolutely!

For a landrace project, I would think perhaps getting a whole bunch of F1s might be best for anyone who isn’t in a rush. Well ideally would be to get F2s yes, but what I mean is, suppose you get 20 F2 seeds of one type, that’s cool. But suppose you get their F1 instead, then you basically have access to ALL the F2s that could make, right? So if you plant it, you can make thousands of seeds and your F2 set can cover the whole genetic spectrum of the F1 whereas presumably having only 20 seeds might have given you a much smaller fraction of the genetic potential? I’m only guessing there, but, is that right?

The other point would be if there is any issue with space or that kind of convenience. Like if it took… I don’t know, say for argument’s sake 100 or 1,000 random F2 seeds to cover most of the variance of the potential of their F1 parent, if you sent a pack of 100 F1 seeds (all different crosses) that would save you having to instead send 10,000 or 100,000 F2 seeds.

So I’m just guessing that if it is the case that one needs a lot of F2s to cover the spectrum of the parent, and if those might not be available from the source (like from Craig for example) then although it would take one more year, a new landrace/breeding project might be better equipped if receiving the F1s?

Also I’m wondering, since the F1 is as you say so boring, I’m not so sure we need to be adapting it to our land, because that’s not the adaptation year anyway, and so, why not just grow it indoors over Winter? Also because it’s the F1, we can grow just one plant, and even that would give us the diverse F2 through selfing, is that right? If so then would it not be quite cost efficient to have a room full of different F1s with artificial light to grow out the fruits over Winter and then plant the resultant many many F2 seeds outside in Spring?

And if that is a good idea, but if unmanageable for most people, then would it not be nice for someone in each region to take that on, perhaps gain some monetary or other type favours from the others in their region and grow for everyone like that? The same as the corporations do by sending their seed to the opposite hemisphere?

I certainly love your idea of crossing the dwarfs with exserted tomatoes :slight_smile:

Now something I thought of - 2 dimensional space:
So it occurs to me that we can grow plants that are tall or short, but effectively we are dealing with the 2 dimensional area of the surface of the earth, i.e. that, aside from at the edges of our land, where the angle of the sun has effect as we can have tall plants and gain light (but at the expense of shadowing our neighbour), basically if a plant gets taller then the more leaves it has, the more it is shading whatever is underneath it, so, if it becomes as high as a person, or taller, but with dense leaves, then I assume it can only actually add more productivity by making sure there is a greater gap between it and whatever it would otherwise thus be shading from the Sun. Is that right?

What I mean is, say you have a 10x10m block of tomatoes. Say they are in rows. Say the rows are 1m apart. Now if the plants are 1m high (that’s about 3 feet for imperialists!) then they’ll be more productive than 0.5m high. But, at a certain height, the shading effect on the other rows will start to cancel out the gain, right?

So I am guessing there is an overall optimum in terms of the relation between plant/row spacing, and plant height, with regard to photosynthesis potential.

Now sorry that I am taking time to get to my point, but what I’m trying to say now is that, is it perhaps possible that dwarf plants might in fact be useable to achieve an optimum productivity of space? Well I guess this also depends on branch and leaf density along the main stem too… but, do you know what I mean? Like, maybe dwarfs in a field could reach a similar output to the really tall strung up indeterminates?

And if not, then anyway there’s all the work of actually stringing up and making supports and all that for those such tall indeterminates to consider. Plus all the work of taking the suckers off. Could it perhaps be better overall for us just to be planting rows of dwarfs outside and then not needing any supports at all (or do they need stakes?) and no de-suckering and still get good yields, say for example if we were running a market garden, is this feasible? Or are these dwarfs really just not economical for market gardens?

Because, if they are, if they are actually productive enough for the use of space, and would be better in terms of less maintenance for desuckering and supporting, then … well then how come they’re not already a trait bred into Joseph’s landraces? Or besides that, perhaps we could start crossing them with wild tomatoes and exserted tomatoes and landracing?

Hmm what I just said about size… I’m having second thoughts now I see how small the plants really are, I was thinking they weren’t quite as small as that. Anyway I’m interested in what people have to say about the issue of tomato plants that grow so huge and need so much maintenance or desuckering, and solutions to that…

And in case anyone’s interested - the video mentioned this seed company, here’s their page on the project:

And here’s Craig’s page on it:

That yantarnuy I mentioned I was growing tight just to see if I could get maximum production and 7 plants per m2 wasn’t even very tight. Normally bush or higher dwarf types 4 per m2 max or too much to have maximum production and some of the higher (up to metre) more sprawling 2,5 plants m2 been enough. Production can be probably quite similar dispite hight/sprawl if spacing is appropriate for that plant. Too tight tends to be worse as shading affects very fast after certain point, but more space allows higher per plant production. You can intercrop with something that need less light if there free space between. Not sure yet where my breeding will lead to. Yantarnuy is a bit too compact and topples over easily. I want something that is just little bigger and sprawls a bit. Some varieties I have had have lighter foliage that allows better airflow which is important late in the seoson when it’s gets more moist.

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Domestic tomatoes don’t work well as a landrace for two reasons:

  • They are highly inbred, and lack genetic diversity
  • The flower structure promotes further inbreeding

Landrace gardening requires genetic diversity. Domestic tomatoes don’t have enough genetic diversity left in them to be suitable for a landrace development project.

Landrace gardening requires cross-pollination. The vast majority of domestic tomato varieties are self-pollinating, and thus lose half of their remaining genetic diversity with each generation.

If someone were working with domestic tomatoes, with the goal of turning them into proto-landrace, I would recommend that the primary selection criteria be for flower structures that are more susceptible to cross-pollination – The split anther cones of the beefsteaks, and/or the exerted stigmas of some cherry tomatoes.

I turned to inter-species crosses to increase genetic diversity, and for the promiscuous flower types.

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@Justin, regarding your question about giant tomato vines. Mine all are like that. The dwarf types I’ve tried did not produce well and as it turned weren’t all that dwarf either. I tried about a million types of trellis systems over the years. Now I use cattle panels, like very robust woven wire that comes in 16’ sections. I cut it to 8 feet and bend about 18" on each end so that it stands up its own and they largely just climb it on their own, but I do still have weave them through and sometimes tear an old t-shirt or some other cotton item into strips to tie them up. I use pure cotton only so I can just leave it in the garden with the old vines.

I would prefer to not mess with it and just let sprawl as they will, but I don’t have space for that.

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Ah, yeah I’ve seen videos of that method, does look pretty good! Nice to hear your feedback on that. I’d love to see photos of that if you’d like to share!

How about… what anyway here is called ‘garden twine’ I think, basically very course string made from, I’m not sure maybe jute or some rather rough fibre. I used that for tying up my tomatoes a little - actually I let my big outside one kind of ‘walk’ wherever it wanted to go but I made some little stilts for it as it went, just to keep most of it off the ground. Probably won’t use that method again, but I wanted to become familiar with its habits as it was our first meeting. Anyway I think that string just decays easily. And I found if I need to lessen the pressure then I just use 2 or 3 loops of it to spread the pressure. But I am super new - is there a reason to avoid such string? (It would seem to me more convenient)

I guess any natural fiber would work, just so I don’t have to collect it back up before composting the old vines. I just don’t like to buy anything at all if I can help it and can usually find something that will do the trick.

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I got excited about dwarfs slowly. In 2017 I grew the determinate dwarf Krainy Sever. I was impressed by its earliness and ability to keep its tomatoes off the ground and it made my list to work with further / make crosses with- still haven’t.

In 2019 I think it was I grew Payette- a lot of Payette. I grew it for seed so I actually did grow enough to give it a good trial rather than a try. It is a good tomato and- interesting for a reason I will mention later.

I got my first microdwarf from a seed gift of what was supposed to be and may have been a segregating early late blight resistant tomatoes.

So I got a bunch more dwarfs and some microdwarfs in the last year or two and grew out quite a few of them including many from the dwarf tomato project last year. I found three or four favorites for earliness and or flavor including dwarf saucy mary, kelly green, and dwarf eagle smiley.

I also crossed the microdwarf Aztek into my main project the Mission Mountain tomato. I already have F2 seeds for that that will segregate back to dwarf and microdwarf. So I might have that cool dwarf trait where they keep their fruits off the ground in my project soon!

Another important and intriguing connection. Payette apparently got its dwarf-ness from its wild ancestry. It is an early modern. The breeders crossed in Solanum peruvianum and then some generations later Solanum habrochaites.

Then Joseph Lofthouse had something of the same result with some but not all of his promiscuous project. In 2021 he sent me his S34,35,36 tasty and dwarf selection and I grew it with some of my bicolor selections from the 2020 seed he sent me for the project. One of those plants and just one was very very tasty. I described it as Fuyu Persimmon like and called it “The One!” for about a year and grew out a very large number of its descendents in 2022. All or almost all of these are dwarf. The original mother also was nicely exserted in the stigma department and open anthered in the flower. The next generation varies in exsertion and the anthers are not always open but the seem to universally not have good connection- they fall apart easily when manipulated for cross pollination attempts.

I think that is important for a number of reasons related to this thread.

  1. There are multiple sources and types of very similar dwarfism which means that we can probably have a dwarf population that doesn’t all rely on the same precise dwarfing gene. - If you breed the exact same gene into everything it is a potential huge genetic weakness.

  2. Dwarfing is not incompatible with promiscuous flowers and has already shown up in Joseph’s promiscuous project.

  3. Dwarfs can hold their fruit up off the ground. (not always- there are details if they get etiolated from being in weeds, or if they have really heavy fruits, or if they just bear their fruits really close to the ground it doesn’t always work and in some people’s rich soil dwarfs get much bigger than they do for me).

  4. Dwarfs can be direct seeded if early enough and some can be very early I did it with Krainiy Sever clear back in 2017. I think more early dwarfs can be bred.

  5. Dwarfs can also be determinate like Krainiy Sever which puts the fruit out further from the core of the plant and farther off the ground.

One thought I have with my F2 seed of Aztek x Mission Mountain Morning is to simply direct seed it and weed out all non-dwarfs. My ideal would be a potato leaf, exserted, bicolored, blue skinned, with good exsertion. I could then put that in a field of regular leaf dwarfs including “The One” and get offspring with great dwarfness. Though I fear I may need to do a round of back crossing with the best exserted potato leaf Mission Mountain Morning F3’s because it is a lot to ask from a single cross and I used the F1 of the Mission Mountain Morning generation as the mother.

Oh and on another note I really want some seed for the dwarf tomato project Uluru Ochre for 2023.

I may or may not have seed for three other exserted stigma crossing block crosses with dwarfs made in 2022. I’ll have to grow out seed and look for regular leaf seedlings.

Thanks for starting this thread, Greenie.

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I may have to give dwarf tomatoes another try. I only grew them one year and only and four or five kinds. They were more dwarfish, that my other tomatoes but still needed support, even before the fruits started sizing up, they started falling over.

They succumbed to various diseases quite early in the season. As I recall the leaves just started drying up and turning brown without any other observed symptoms. I also wasn’t at all impressed with the flavor or production.

Still, with so few tried and only trying one time, I can’t have enough experience with them to really know what is possible with them.

Dwarf in this case doesn’t really mean dwarf, but it’s more relative term. Not sure if it’s just for the microdwarf liniage in them. In any case they come in many shapes and sizes, but on average are lot smaller than many normal tomatoes. The bigger types must be indeterminate even though they can be grown as bush and have more determinate cropping. They do need support, but I have managed with quite little. I did have quite a many that were susceptible to disease first year I tried, but no more than in other types. Some I have grown now several years. Arctic rose dwarf is about 60cm high very sturdy compact plant, maybe even little too compact, but just little. Very heavy crop for it’s size for which it needs support, but only for main stem. Large barred boar dwarf (not from dwarf dreeding project) branches out more, but not massive bush for me. Very productive. This one has had some trouble with cracking after heavy rain. Both have been healthy and even if there has been something in the leaves right before season ends there haven’t been many fruits that have spoiled in total. Haven’t paid close attention to flower type, but I think they tend to have atleast slightly open type flower. In large barred boar I remember seeing some that were quite open as i made quite a lot of cross with it.

Mark,

I have a lot of curiosity about your tomato situation. Your survivor tomatoes did well for Julia Dakin. I think you said somewhere that you struggle to introduce new kinds. I reckon if we could cross yours with a variety you are curious about but can’t grow, something in the F2 would survive and do well for you, though it might take a big grow out to find that survivor and an even bigger F2 growout to find a survivor with something special to go with surviving.

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I’d love to have some new kinds of tomatoes, especially some with the dwarf growth habit. I just don’t have the space or skill to tackle a project like that. The dwarves I grew did mature some tomatoes but every single time I’ve tried to hand pollinate a tomato flower I ended up killing it.

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I think that is why I like the stigmas that stick out quite a bit so much. I can make crosses without hand pollinating or hand pollinate without emasculating so I get a mix of crossed and uncrossed. I find often when it is hot and dry out in the open field, I can’t get a cross to take. I got quite a few to take in 2022 about eight with repeats and some of those in the open fields and the backyard but I think the weather cooperated. Also, I think I lost more crosses in the most unsheltered spots. I find in the greenhouse or in the house I get better take- wherever things are better protected. Still, I expect when I sort seedlings I’ll have even more 2022 crosses. I like traits that give an early tell too like potato leaf mothers with regular leaf fathers or dwarf mothers with normal fathers. With red vs yellow, red is normally dominant, but you have to have ripe fruit for that so no discarding of seedlings.

I don’t understand how tomatoes work. On the same plants are closed up tight sometimes and very open other times. About all those I grow are like that. I don’t see the exerted stigma much at all with the flower otherwise closed, like in some of Joseph’s photos, the flower is just all opened up or not.

The pimpinellifolium seem to be about the most closed up of all but they are the only ones where I’m sure crosses have happened.

Seems like more open flowers on the others are early in the season and late in the season but not so much the rest of the time. What I see a lot is flowers that are pretty much closed but there are splits at the base of the anther cone. I have a lot of little micro-bees and some kind of tiny fly that take advantage of that.

Flowers are most open and most consistently so late in the season. This coincides with a general lessening of flowering around the yard and that is when bumblebees take notice of the tomatoes. I’m sure lots of crossing happens then but it’s too late, those fruits aren’t going to make it before frost.

Stigmas that stick out works best in a hot dry year for me. Especially with some strains.

I’ve gotten a few reports back that in some climates my tomatoes don’t stick their stigmas out as far.

Yeah my bumble bees seem to like tomatoes best at certain times. They have to need the pollen. They don’t pollinate the first flowers of the self incompatible habrochaites.