Successful fresh-market tomato varieties continue to come out of North Carolina State University's breeding program at the Mountain Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, N.C.

One of the latest is Mountain Crest, says Randy Gardner, North Carolina State University plant breeder.

Released in 2002, Mountain Crest has an extended shelf life, a ripening inhibitor gene and improved color and flavor over recent releases.

It has been in trials since 1998 and had average yields of 3,642, 20-pound boxes per acre compared with Mountain Fresh at 3,810, 20-pound boxes per acre and Mountain Spring at 2,739, 20-pound boxes per acre. Mountain Fresh and Mountain Spring are also out of Gardner's program.

Mountain Crest has an average size of 10.4 ounces, whereas Mountain Spring is 12.8 ounces and Mountain Fresh is 11.3 ounces. It matures earlier than Mountain Fresh.

“If you're looking for increased firmness that will hold up during shipping, take a look at Mountain Crest,” Gardner says.

The variety will be available to growers in 2004 through Sun Seeds.

In the plum tomato category, Plum Crimson performed well in trials. It has the crimson gene and early blight and fusarium wilt race 3 resistance and very good resistance to fruit cracking and weather check, Gardner says.

At 3,807, 25-pound boxes per acre, Plum Crimson out-performed other varieties such as Plum Dandy, Peto 882 and Puebla. Plum Crimson has a marketable yield of 3,520, 25-pound boxes per acre. Its size is 4.3 ounces, compared with Plum Dandy's 3.6 ounces.

“Plum Crimson averaged better than Sunoma, a variety that's replacing Puebla,” Gardner says. Harris-Moran Seed company released the variety last year.

Gardner is also working on getting the SW 5 gene, a Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus resistance gene, into varieties currently available, as well as developing varieties with resistance.

NC 0256 is a variety with TSWV resistance, as well as nematode and fusarium wilt race 3 resistance.

NC 0256, which hasn't been released, is a promising variety, Gardner says. BHN 640 is a promising hybrid that's a medium maturity tomato with 11.9-ounce to 12.4-ounce size.

In Clemson University trials, NC 227 and NC 0236 performed well. The two varieties are for the mature green harvest market and performed well compared with Sun Pride.

In the plum tomato types, NC 032939 is a candidate with TSWV resistance. NC 0341 combines TSWV resistance with early and late blight resistance.

“We're also looking at other sources of resistance to late blight,” Gardner says.

Grape tomatoes are becoming more important in North Carolina. N.C. 1 Grape and N.C. 2 Grape are two breeding lines that have good foliar disease resistance.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com