Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tomato grafting

Ajay Nair and Kristine Neu
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

High tunnels have emerged as a tool for Iowa vegetable growers to extend the growing season, increase crop production, and improve the quality of the produce, but production in this system does not come without challenges. Continuous cropping of tomatoes in the same high tunnel gives rise to recurring soilborne and foliar diseases, pest pressure, issues with soil fertility and salinity, and increased irrigation requirements. One tool to overcome these challenges may be the use of vegetable grafting. The process of grafting is accomplished by attaching the desired scion onto a rootstock that is typically bred for vigor and/or disease resistance.

Results from a two-year study of grafting a determinate (Mountain Fresh Plus) and an indeterminate (Cherokee Purple) tomato cultivar on RST-04-106T rootstock are available on sustainable vegetable production lab website. Click on the link below to download the report.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It is all about seeds !

Dr. Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

This is the time everyone is busy planning for the upcoming season and for some time to order seeds. A successful cropping season rests largely on high-quality seeds. Seed quality is central when it comes to uniform germination, successful establishment, and high yields of vegetable crops. Key factors growers should be aware of:

1.       Seed storage: It is always good to buy new seeds every year but if you have leftover seeds from last year, you can still use them, provided they were stored properly (low moisture, cool, and dry storage conditions). It is better to avoid seeds that are more than 2 years old that were not properly stored.

2.       Cultivars: It is a good time to glean through university cultivar trial reports, extension publications, grower forums, and seed catalogs to identify the cultivar you want to grow. Use your own experience from previous growing seasons and customer feedback to make the right cultivar choice. Of course, there is nothing wrong in experimenting few new cultivars and vegetable types.

3.       Seed suppliers: Please make sure to order seeds from reputed and trusted vendors. Seeds should have high germination percentage, should be true to type, free of weeds and diseases. Sometimes it is better to call your area seed company representative. The Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Conference (26-27 January 2017, Ankeny, IA) will host several seed companies that do business in Iowa. More information on

4.       Order the right amount: It is advisable to order a little more than what you need but it is not good to order large quantities of seeds that go unused.

To sum it all, seeds are the foundation of a successful production system. Seed quality plays an important role and its characteristics such as trueness to variety, germination percentage, purity, vigor, and appearance are important for optimum crop growth, performance, and yield. A good quality seed never costs, it pays!