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A call for tomato seeds

Canadians:  Do you have any heritage tomato varieties that show some resistance to blight and other pests and diseases? Do you have any extra seeds that you would be willing to donate to a breeding project?

We are hoping to get a new tomato breeding project up and running this spring, and we need a good genetic base to start from. We have a few varieties already, but the more variation we start with, the better. Any number of seeds that you can donate would be helpful. Seeds can be mailed to:

The Open Plant Breeding Foundation
260 Arthur Street North,
Guelph, Ontario N1H 1T4

Thank you!



I shall be growing the variety Manitoba this year (unfortunately not in Canada.) I'll let you know how I get on with it.

Here are the varieties we already have to start out with:

  • Bush Beefsteak
  • Early Tanana
  • Nova Pasta
  • Tigerella

I'll be speaking with a number of seed-saver groups to see what they recommend for varieties that have some resistance to blight, stem rot, leaf spot, wilt, etc. --- as well as hornworms, aphids, psyllids, etc.

Blight has now been present on my land for three weeks all the potatoes apart from sarpo axona have perished. The tomatoes resisted infection for nearly two weeks before signs began to develop. One of the first to shows signs was unfortunatly Manitoba a Canadian variety the good news is it's still standing and has plenty of green leaf and the fruits are largely unharmed. However as the blight has now spread to all the 20 varieties I am trialing I don't hold much hope of geting ripe fruit. The weather this year has been perfect for blight and bad for tomatoes. Not just because of the blight, but the cold and wind. I have decided to use weight of fruit set as my selection criteria this year as none of the varieties look to be exceptionally resistant and the ability to set fruit in this bad weather is more important than a slightly greater resistance.

I have discovered another tomato breeding project in Germany. It is based at the University of Gottingen. They started with 3500 accesions in 2003, and reduced this down during the following 3 years and made crosses with the best selections. They now have resistant varieties of wild, cocktail, salad, processing and beefsteak tomatoes. I am trying to obtain seeds for next year.

My Tomato trial finished at the end of August. I grew 20 different varieties, 6 from the heritage seed library and the rest were heirloom and standard varieties from commercial catalogues. by the end of August it was evident that 3 varieties were significantly better that all the rest. The varieties were Alaskan Fancy, Red Alert and Glacier with Glacier being the only variety to ripen fruit on the plant. All 3 of these varieties might have been able to ripen a good crop without the parasite interferance from the other varieties some of which were very suceptible.

I will now use Glacier as a control in all futher evaluations of new varieties. My intention is to cross pollinate the 3 varieties as early in the year as possible in the hopes that I can get the F2 generation ready for sowing in August while the blight is still around. I will save the best seedlings and then use single seed decent for 3 generations before trialing them at the correct time of year I shall use the best 3 or 4 plants along with any other comparable selections I can find in the meantime to make a population for futher selection.

Glacier and Red Alert are available from Thompson and Morgan, as is Matina a variety used in the developement of the German tomatoes mentioned in my previous post.

Unfortunately the cultivation of heterogenous mixtures is illegal under EU law! We can only cultivate regestered varieties so I have decided to use single seed decent in the hopes of speeding up the breeding process. I am at least allowed to eat and probably to give away tomatoes from my breeding but i'm not allowed to sell seed or fruit from crosses.

Hey Samuel,

That EU law sounds crazy! That sounds like Monsantoing on the part of the EU.

Anyway, good luck on your breeding and keep us posted!

I'll be starting up tomato breeding pry next spring in Vancouver, BC Canada, if not sooner!

Is there anybody else nearby?

Zac Helmberger
White Rock Natural Farm
Surrey, BC Canada

This year the blight was slightly later but just as bad. The tomatoes being futher away from the potatoes took longer before the first signs of infection. The first bit of bad news is that my selections of last year have not performed very well Glasier which came top in the trial was the worst affected of the three (Glasier, Red Alert and Alaskian Fancy) Matina the variety selected in a German breeding program is not resistant at all in England. All the varities suffered stem lessions and rotted fruit except one Latah. Latah has only some small lessions on its leaves the fruit has ripened well apart from a few fruits having splits and some green back. The problem with it however is the flavour far too sharp. The yield is also quite low, in its defence it was the only variety to yield any marketable fruit I just don't think anybody would want to buy it twice! I now have a small heated greenhouse to grow transplants over winter, I am going to cross Latah with Red Alert and Alaskian Fancy I should have an F1 by March the F2 will be ready about mid July so I hope to a seedling inoculation in August and then dig up the least affected plants bring them into a poly tunnel and spray them to make sure I get the fruit. I will then start inbreeding for late selection. I think late selection might be helpful for improving the flavour. I am still searching for new tomatoes to trial next year to add to the genepool.

Hi Samuel_E

I don't know where in the UK you are based, but here in Cornwall blight has been pretty awful again this year. I tried two varieties of supposedly blight resistant tomatoes "tomatito de Jalapa" and L. humboldtii. Neither seem to be close to what I would call resistant, although both are fruiting quite well outdoors and I expect more of the fruit would be ripening ripened if we actually had some decent sunshine. I did notice that when I was forced to prune them back from the path, the blight seemed to gain a toehold, although that might just be coincidence. Latah was a disaster last year, as were all outdoor tomatoes. What I would like is a reliable outdoor culinary tomato for sauces etc.

I'm also attempting to select a reliable chile for our conditions. Could be a long wait...................

The serious nature of tomato blight is relatively new and dates from the introduction of the A2 mating type to the northern hemisphere. You probably know that there are two mating types in Phytophthora infestans (A1 & A2) which are both hermaphrodite but self-sterile. When blight was accidentally taken from Mexico to New York and then Europe, in the early 1840's, it was taken as A1 only. This meant that it could not form the over-wintering spores (oospores) that result from sexual fusion. The only way the blight could over-winter was in the rather rare surviving potato seed tuber, and the epidemic took a long time to develop because the initial inoculum was so low. Hence the term 'late blight'. The only way tomatoes could get blight was from blighted potatoes and, because this occurred late in the season, it was relatively innocuous. Then the A2 mating type was accidentally taken to Europe and was spread all over the northern hemisphere in certified seed potatoes, because no one had realised that it was present. The result was that oospores could now form, and this has had four consequences: (i) the initial inoculum is much bigger; (ii) the potato blight epidemics start sooner and are more severe; (iii) tomatoes now also get blight much sooner from both oospores and potato crops; and (iv) increased genetic variability in the blight fungus means that both single-gene resistances and fungicides break down to new strains of the fungus more quickly. The overall effect on tomato cultivation, particularly organic cultivation, has been severe. However, the blight fungus has a chink in its armor. It can infect a tomato leaf, stem or fruit only if that tissue is wet. If your crop is small, you can protect it from rain with a light wood and plastic sheet structure. The plants can then be irrigated with furrow irrigation. This dry plant technique can also be done on a commercial scale in a greenhouse using hydroponics.

Tomatoes are easy to breed. A group of you good people could form a breeding club, using this forum as a center of information, and exchanging breeding material by snail mail. Anyone, in any country, could join and the organisation would be quite informal. Members might never meet, but this would not prevent cooperation. It would take 5-10 years (possibly a little longer) to get high levels of durable (i.e., many-gene) resistance combined with high yield and fruit quality. If there is sufficient interest, I will prepare a basic tomato breeding manual which would enable anyone to start. It would be a wiki-manual so that anyone can add their own views and experiences for all to share.

And, if the tomato breeding club proves a success, we can start other clubs, and other wiki-manuals.

I would be interested in a tomato breeding manual. I have been an amateur tomato breeder for 5 years and am interested in using the recurrent mass selection technique for inbreeding crops like tomatoes. Also, what do folks feel the role of hybrids is? Do any of them have poly genes for disease resistance? I have been doing some work dehybridizing hybrids and it seems that they sure contain a lot of genetic diversity but is this all single-gene resistance or could some still have poly genes for resistance depending on the variety? How to know??? I am in Michigan. Phytopthera has just shown up here in Michigan and it will be interesting to see how it affects my work.