Megablooms in Abundance on Tomato Vines

By any measure, tomato vines in the backyard high tunnel are doing much better than those in the giant tomato bed in the front yard.

High Tunnel Backyard 9-29-2014 A High Tunnel Backyard 9-29-2014 B

Here’s a comparison of leaves of “Russian” vines, a wispy-, regular-leaf variety which produces heart-shaped fruit. Note that both vines were grown from seeds of the same specimen (2.319 DT 2010).

Tunnel:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) leaves high tunnel 9-29-2014 C

Giant Tomato Bed:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) leaves giant tomato bed 9-29-2014 C

Here are some measurements which really emphasize differences between these two plants with identical genetics; all measurements are of the largest leaf or leaflet and are in mm (millimeters):

MEASUREMENT               GIANT TOMATO BED    HIGH TUNNEL

Plant Height                                  855                               1082

Thickest Stem                                 11.2                               19.6

Longest Leaf                                 242                                 374

Longest Leaflet                             104                                 210

Widest Leaflet                                 41                                   84

 

All varieties are showing this stark contrast.  Treatment differences are discussed at:

http://tomatodepot.proboards.com/thread/5281/induce-megabloom-production?page=1&scrollTo=69304

Some impressive megablooms are starting to open in the high tunnel!

Here are some triples (3X) –

Polish Giant Beefsteak (2.222 DT 2013):

Polish Giant Beefsteak (2.222 DT 2013) 3X blossom 6-29-2014 E

Big Zac (3.486 DT 2012)(3.94 Pennington 2010)(7.18 Harp 2009):

Big Zac (3.486 DT 2012) 3X blossom 6-29-2014 C

A few 4X’s –

Russian (2.319 DT 2010), with sepals measuring 3-1/2″ across:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 I

Domingo (4.55 Wahl 2012):

Domingo (4.55 Wahl 2012) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy 2013)(5.07 Boudyo 2010):

Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy 2013) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 D

Chilo della Garfagnana (3.375 Koshykar 2012):

Chilo della Garfagnana (3.375 Koshykar 2012) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 D

And some 5X’s –

Omar’s Lebanese (1.724 DT 2010):

Omar's Lebanese (1.724 DT 2010) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 A

Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011)(4.14 Perry 2009):

Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 C Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 F

Brutus Magnum (2.006 DT 2012)(6.25 Meisner 2011):

Brutus Magnum (2.006 DT 2012) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 B

And some which even appear to be 6X (admittedly usually tough to tell beyond 4X or so) –

Big Zac (3.75 Catapano 2007)(4.59 Lyons 2006):

Big Zac (3.75 Catapano 2007) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 B

Leadbeatter’s Lunker (1.644 DT 2012)(4.905 Leadbeatter 2012):

Leadbeatter's Lunker (1.644 DT 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 J Leadbeatter's Lunker (1.644 DT 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Epstein’s Potato Leaf (__Johnson 2012)(Big Zac derivative):

Epstein's Potato Leaf (__ Johnson 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Rebecca Sebastian’s Bull Bag (2.200 DT 2010):

Rebecca Sebastian's Bull Bag (2.200 DT 2010) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 D

And yes, even a 7X –

Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011):

Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011) 7X blossom 6-29-2014 E Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011) 7X blossom 6-29-2014 B

And last, but not least, an 8X!

Michael’s Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012):

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 E Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 N Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 O

This megabloom has 38 distinct sepals, compared to 6 or 8 on other blossoms on this vine.

Note that several of these megablooms emerge from “ribbon” vines; that is, multiple fused vines which are quite flattened.  In the world of giant pumpkin growing, ribbon vines are duds.  I don’t recall this phenomenon producing anything remarkable with tomatoes either, but my sample size is small and my memory inadequate.

The huge challenge at this point is to find enough viable pollen needed to get these impressive blossoms to set fruit.  Western Flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) are running rampant, gobbling up the pollen before it even matures.  At least the weather has been cooperating – so far not nearly so hot as 2012 and 2013.

 

PS –
Here’s what I posted at The Tomato Depot on June 17th in the thread “Induce Megabloom Production”:

As those who have tried to grow giant tomatoes can attest, regardless of genetic stock, you really need fused ovaries (manifested as megablooms) in order to grow giant tomatoes. Though some have claimed to grow 4, even 5 pound tomatoes from a single ovary (blossom), upon careful inspection, these would almost always be the result of tightly fused fruits. Usually with the really big tomatoes, it’s quite obvious from deep lobing and weird shapes that they emerged from megablooms.

So in our quest for the 8-pounder, an enticing question is:

What, if anything, can we do to induce the production of megablooms?

There has been some discussion of this in the “New thoughts on that elusive 8lb’er” thread, as well as the “mega bloom varietys???” thread.

I have not stumbled upon any genuine research into this question, but several have made observations and conjecture. This issue has come into sharp focus for me in the past few days. I have two garden beds in production for large (hopefully giant) tomatoes. Here is a summary of the differences.

Parameter              Giant Tomato Bed       Backyard High Tunnel
Size of bed                    33′ X 7′                            27′ X 6′
No. tomato plants             24                                      36
Walking path        Down middle, boards           Outside bed

Sunlight                       Full sun                 Sun only 11 am – 5pm

New organic matter         6″                                     4″

Other nutrients             Lots                        Not as much but a lot

How long as garden    3 years                            40 years

Date seeds planted    March 25                          April 05

Date transplanted       May 21                            May 22

Watering method     Sprinkling                Buried soaker hose

Surface cover    Wood chips & leaves              Leaves

First blossoms open May 24th                      June 17th

What has me intrigued is the stark contrast in megablooms – or rather “megabuds” in formation, since most are in earlier stages of development. Here is a comparison of the best megabloom/megabud between these two beds.

Best/Biggest Blossom    Giant Tomato Bed     Backyard High Tunnel

1X                                  14                                   6

2X                                   4                                    7
3X                                   2                                  10

4X+                                 2                                     8
None yet                         2                                     5
Total                              24                                   36

Here, “3X”, for example, means a triple, or three fused blossoms, and raw numbers indicate the number of tomato plants with that size of “best/biggest” blossom.

The contrast is sharp – plants are doing much better in the high tunnel, at least as far as megabloom production. What is also noteworthy is that in the giant tomato bed, both 4X+ blossoms withered and died, despite my best efforts to pollinate. Also, one of the 3X’s died. The other 3X (on a MegaMarv) took and is growing fairly well, though it has some catfacing. Despite 100+ blossoms that have opened in the past couple of weeks in the giant tomato bed – nearly all singles – only this one MegaMarv has set fruit.

Yes, it is early in the season, but these preliminary observations raise several questions about what might be involved in inducing megabloom production.

What has worked for you? How much, if any control do we have to stimulate production of those coveted 6X or 8X blossoms? Has anyone compiled a list of all the potential factors involved in this megabloom phenomenon? How would we distinguish a genuine cause-effect relationship from a mere correlational observation?

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Curly Top Virus, Beet Leafhopper and Tomato Plant Destruction

In southern Utah this past week, setting up supports and weeding.

Before:

Kanab Garden 6-24-2014 A

After:

Kanab Garden 6-27-2014 A

Some losses to pocket gophers:

Kanab Gopher 6-24-2014 A

Widespread losses to Curly Top Virus, carried by Beet Leafhoppers, Circulifer tenellus.  Of 516 tomato vines, 260 are dead or nearly so.  Probably 150+ are in earlier stages of the disease.  This sight was way too common:

Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 L Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 M Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 K

Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 G

Note the purple veins and how healthy the weeds are!  Nothing can save these plants at this point.  Yet another lesson learned the hard way.  Working on mesh bags to put over replacement seedlings which will go in about two weeks from now.  Also planning on companion plantings of marigolds and basil.

Melons, on the other hand, are doing very well.  Of 60 varieties, here’s the first to blossom and set fruit, just 40 days from sowing seeds!

Melon Ananasnaya 6-27-2014 A