Tomato experts needed for PhD assistance

MBarr00September 7, 2011

Hello experts. I have a science based question for a project I�m working on and I�ve come for help. After tons of online reading, I will conclude there is no "best" tomato, however, I would like to find a "best fit" tomato.

I have several metrics below, in order of most important to least important. Can the experts come forth with a recommendation to best fit my criteria? This is for my PhD studies and while the story I give is fictional, your recommendations will be held to test. I am very exciting for my taste buds :)

Story: a manned space mission to travel to a distant object (5 years to be exact) must be supplied with all necessities for survival. Food must be grown naturally in the space capsule and the criterion below are used to determine which plant species get to go on the adventure. Due to space constraints 2 tomato plants can come. One 2.5 feet high, determinate (the main crop food), and one 5 feet high, indeterminate (earth�s "tomato ambassador", heirloom?).

1. Taste: the team will be eating this plant day in, day out � to maintain the most critical aspect of space travel, sanity, flavour must be of utmost concern.

2. Yield: calling this number 2 makes it sound less important than 1� yield is equally important and is interchangeable with taste as long as a strong argument can be made to support either over the other. Cubic foot yield on an annual basis is the measuring criterion.

3. Sustainability: these plants must be either cloneable or produce seed (I imagine this is a given but it must be mentioned due to its inherent importance).

4. Ease of maintenance: the "farmers" will be competent people but their time will be better spent elsewhere. Pollination, pruning, hunting for hidden fruits, etc� let�s minimize these.

5. Resistances, immunities, heartyness is not needed. Nutrient, light requirements, humidity are all factors that can be controlled. These will be grown under "manmade" ideal conditions. Although, shelf life should be considered.

I have a feeling there will be debates, I�m looking forward to them :) Can we keep answers in this forum post to relevant answers, or relevant debunking of answers? Also, for the sake of science, can you list the reasons for your recommendation? This way, if you say "hi yield", other experts can confirm. Please don't be shy, you don't need to be right, just have a reason :)

Lastly, if you want to push the height limits from 2.5 feet to 3 feet (or 5 feet to 5.5,6 feet) please offer a compelling reason because these height restrictions are somewhat of a rule (we have roots to consider).

Thank you all so much. When the responses get too many to handle, I will summarize the group�s findings.

Matt Barr

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terrybull

when are you leaving on your mission?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 12:03PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Seems to me you should do your own homework. What a ridiculous waste of time and energies.
You say you have read tons,so you have all the answers,
I feel you may need to get a better hobby.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 4:30PM
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suncitylinda

Have you ever actually grown a tomato?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 5:52PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There is no way that ANY 2 plants, 1 determinate and 1 indeterminate, can meet all or even most of your criteria of size (heights are unrealistic), clonability (only indeterminate), stabilized seed (only OP varieties), sustainability, and consistent level of production.

Given the nature of tomatoes, the scenario you present is totally unrealistic.

Depending on crew size, which you don't mention, try staggered planting of 15-20 6-8' tall indeterminate plants instead.

Dave

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 6:18PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Just curious but what University are you getting your Ph. D from and I ask b'c of the rather amusing study you outlined in your first post which I wouldn't associate with that degree from any Ph.D program. ( smile)

Carolyn

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 6:51PM
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terrybull

you are going to circle the sun for 8 to 10 hours a day. unless you are taking grow lights on your journey.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:09PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

1. Taste: the team will be eating this plant day in, day out to maintain the most critical aspect of space travel, sanity, flavour must be of utmost concern.

I think if you have to pick an indeterminate variety that is universally thought of as the best tasting, from all I have read, pink, potato-leafed Brandywine would get the most votes. Sudduth's strain is an example.

2. Yield: calling this number 2 makes it sound less important than 1� yield is equally important and is interchangeable with taste as long as a strong argument can be made to support either over the other. Cubic foot yield on an annual basis is the measuring criterion.

Pink, potato-leafed Brandywine is not known as a high yielder, but its taste makes it worth the space for most growers.

3. Sustainability: these plants must be either cloneable or produce seed (I imagine this is a given but it must be mentioned due to its inherent importance).

Not sure I have ever heard of a seedless tomato, but if by produce seed you mean produce a seed that will grow the same plant as the parent, then you need an open-pollinated, genetically stable variety as opposed to an F1 hybrid. Sudduth's strain is a pink, potato-leafed Brandywine that is an open-pollinated, genetically stable variety.

4. Ease of maintenance: the "farmers" will be competent people but their time will be better spent elsewhere. Pollination, pruning, hunting for hidden fruits, etc., let's minimize these.

If it is ease of maintenance you are looking for, then you need to find another fruit because if tasty tomatoes were easy, low-maintenance fruits to grow, you would be able to buy tasty tomatoes in the grocery store for cheap.

5. Resistances, immunities, heartyness is not needed. Nutrient, light requirements, humidity are all factors that can be controlled. These will be grown under "manmade" ideal conditions. Although, shelf life should be considered.

If the humidty, light and temperature can be controlled and disease resistance is not an issue, then again, pink, potato-leafed Brandywine (which is not very disease resistant, doesn't like a lot of humidity and is fickle about setting fruit when it is too hot and humid) is a good tasting choice and if you can provide an ideal environment to grow it and don't have to worry about disease, might be a good yielder.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:27PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

1. Taste: the team will be eating this plant day in, day out to maintain the most critical aspect of space travel, sanity, flavour must be of utmost concern.

I think Rutgers is considered a high yielding, good tasting, reliable tomato. Now, Rutgers comes in both indeterminate and determinate strain and has already been tested in space (see link below).

2. Yield: calling this number 2 makes it sound less important than 1 yield is equally important and is interchangeable with taste as long as a strong argument can be made to support either over the other. Cubic foot yield on an annual basis is the measuring criterion.

Rutgers is a reliable good yielder.

3. Sustainability: these plants must be either cloneable or produce seed (I imagine this is a given but it must be mentioned due to its inherent importance).

Rutgers is an open-pollinated, genetically stable variety.

4. Ease of maintenance: the "farmers" will be competent people but their time will be better spent elsewhere. Pollination, pruning, hunting for hidden fruits, etc., let's minimize these.

Again, if it is ease of maintenance you are looking for, then you need to find another fruit because if tasty tomatoes were easy, low-maintenance fruits to grow, you would be able to buy tasty tomatoes in the grocery store for cheap!

5. Resistances, immunities, heartyness is not needed. Nutrient, light requirements, humidity are all factors that can be controlled. These will be grown under "manmade" ideal conditions. Although, shelf life should be considered.

If the humidty, light and temperature can be controlled and disease resistance is not an issue, then Rutgers is a tasty, high yielding determinate tomato.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rutgers' History

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:46PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

"rather amusing study you outlined in your first post which I wouldn't associate with that degree from any Ph.D program."

My guess is he is a psych PhD student and his study isn't about tomatoes per se but rather group dynamics on an internet forum. And I am sure some of the snarky comments above will make it into the discussion section of his paper.

However, I decided to play along and I have to say I think I provided him with very good answers to his questions, lol!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:52PM
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suncitylinda

My guess is he is a psych patient.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 12:25AM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

"My guess is he is a psych patient"

Wow, I think that is really uncalled for. First off, being a "psych patient" is a cruel remark that serves to stigmatize those people who have mental illnesses. It perpetuates this very wrong and very discriminatory belief that people with mental illnesses have something to be ashamed of. Mental illness is no more shameful than having cystic fibrosis or any other genetic condition.

Putting all of that aside, I don't think anything he wrote could be construed as evidence he has a mental illness. However if he is a psych grad student as I believe, he will have a field day with your comment.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 12:56AM
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trudi_d

Matthew,

I looked up Matthew Barr + PhD on Google and found a wee few of you in North America, perhaps if you let us know what school you're at and what field your studying then we can help you better.

Why are you asking an online garden community for information for your PhD? Gardenweb has a lot of knowledgeable people but I'm not sure this is the best place for you to find the specifics you need. Wouldn't you be better served by consulting an agricultural librarian? Have you yet visited NAL, ARS, or NASA to obtain advice and documentation? And, if you have contacted them, then what have you already found out?

Two DETs, one smaller and one somewhat larger, are not going to provide any abundance of fruits that can be eaten daily by multiple people. I said two DETs because an IND keeps growing. Having one DET and one IND in that limited growing area is not going to work out, you need more space in that space place. If you insist on an IND then it's going to need pinching and pruning but that limits the crop.

DETs flower and set all their fruit which ripen about the same time, then they crap out--you'll need to have additional growing space to hold maturing seedlings that will replace the DET. INDs grow, flower and fruit along stems which continue to grow, flower and fruit until the plant is killed by disease or a hard freeze. Disease resistance is a truly wonderful thing, and so are disease-free seeds which is what you will need--including disease-free soil to grow your plants in. I'm not sure what air-borne pathogens that effect tomato plants are filtered out, or not filtered out in the air system of a spaceship but you need to know that information before you make your final variety selections.

What is the primary need for the tomatoes? Are they for food? If so, you need to demand more space (good luck with that!) and put in two INDs, maybe a cherry could be one of them because cherries are generally very good croppers, and the larger fruited varieties are not all plentiful croppers--some give you buckets of fruits and some only give a handful.

For now, in the smaller growing space you could fit two petite plants like Tiny Tim or Red Robin, and in the larger space grow something like San Marzano Nano which is a bush-type paste tomato.

Good luck,

T

Here is a link that might be useful: NAL

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 1:04AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Matt Barr has left the planet.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 1:25AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Matt, at this point I think it would be very helpful if you could tell us more about your project.

Trudi has already asked you what school you're at and I would like to know as well.

Some are addressing your questions seriously and others are not. And I can see reasons for that happening based on what you wrote initially.

And b'c of that confusion I do think it's very important that you share with us more about yourself and your project and what school you're at and equally important, at least to me, how this project fits into a Ph.D program, whether it be botanically, or has been mentioned above, psychologically oriented.

I spent my entire professional career associated with various academic places so am familiar with degree programs from a bachelors degree up to a Ph.D so I do have those experiences that have led me to ask you to please share with us more about yourself and your motivation for what you presented as it fits into a doctoral program.

I think that kind of clarification can then allow folks here to be more helpful in a positive manner.

Thanks.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 9:04AM
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MBarr00

Yumtomatoes, great recommendations (not that I want to skew anyone away from countering). I like where your brain is at :)

To everyone else, thanks for your interest.

Trudy, cherries are good croppers: do you know a species that would match the criteria in the OP?

Matt

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:49AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Ahhh the fog lifts and the smoke clears.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 11:06AM
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suncitylinda

Yumtomatoes - Most of us are too busy having a life to take this guy seriously and jump into his game with the vigor you demonstrate. I have no interest in being anybodies lab rat, but if it rings your bell, I hope you get good press. LInda

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 11:14AM
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terrybull

on my last mission to space we took canned tomatoes and my co-pilot (capton dickiefickle) forgot the can opener so we didnt get to have tomatoes. wheres my rum and coke? oh there it is. anyways back to what i was saying. the next mission we go on were just going to take sun dried tomatoes.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 12:09PM
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suncitylinda

to Yumtomatoes and anyone else I (we) have offended. Sorry. I am not often accused of being politically correct. It is just so hard for me to comprehend that anyone is taking this guy so seriously. I will refer you to our gracious and eloquent "Carolyns" comment. I am sure that is what I meant to say. =) Linda

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 12:31PM
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MBarr00

SuncityLinda: I absolutely should be taken seriously. Why shouldn't I be? I've posed a serious question.

To those who see my story as literal... it's a guide to impose quantitative and qualitative limits on the fruit that can be produced.

As much as this topic has been derailed, I'm still open to reading posts of rubbish if every now and then a true lover of tomatoes has some wisdom to pass along.

Thanks all,

Matt

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 3:04PM
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trudi_d

Hi Matt,

I hope that your post here has not put you off to GardenWeb posters, most of whom are just wonderful folk. If you would like to discuss your project with me please use the link to visit the home page at WinterSown.Org, scroll down to the bottom and click the purple email button. I have some variety suggestions that I think will work within your parameters.

Kindly,

Trudi

Here is a link that might be useful: WinterSown.Org Home Page

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 3:25PM
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suncitylinda

Matt, Based on your OP, I fail to see how any actual experts would have the time or desire to jump into this project (what ever that may be) with you. Perhaps a serious answer to the very appropriate question posed by Carolyn (an actual expert) would persuade me. I'll be watching for that reply. LInda

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 3:30PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

it's a guide to impose quantitative and qualitative limits on the fruit that can be produced.

So what you are really asking then is "if you could only plant 2 tomato plants which would be the best tasting (quality) and the most productive (quantity)?"

So why not just ask that question rather than burying it in all the other misleading info? It is a common one and often discussed. A search using the term 'favorite' or 'best' turns up many recommendations.

Your size/height limits still pose a severe problem. While there are a few varieties that small, they are not noted for flavor, are hybrids, and are only marginally productive. Expand your size limit as discussed above and the options increase 10 fold.

Dave

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 5:43PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

I totally ignored the size requirements in my answer BTW.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 7:05PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Again you refuse to answer the questions put to you by Carole who is actualy an expert.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 7:58PM
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nordfyr315(5)

"I am very exciting for my taste buds :)"

LOL. I like this quote. Sounds like it was from Borat.

Also how do you measure height of plant versus width in zero gravity?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 11:22PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Do tomatoes even grow normally in zero gravity?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 3:30AM
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mudman93(3)

Mine never do.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 1:31AM
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springlift34

All up to you. Anything you would like to do, based on your ability to phrasing,word structure,and typing. You have your own answers. I cannot help you,with the exception of common sense and daily weather related issues.

I do fully love your post. Sometimes we forget to take the words as words. In a world of skeptics, pretty cool. Maybe not realistic yet, but I guess I am trying to say is that if your motive is true, then I respect it.

Friends are family, and they usually stay pretty close.

Take care,
Travis

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 5:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Matt, are you involved with one of the many institutions working on a CELSS program?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 11:13PM
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MBarr00

Hi all,

Yum, once again, thank you for your advice. Your responses, Rutgers and Brandywine are the same 2 species I found listed on the internet as "best" and corroborate my findings before posting here (however, pink, is more specific than I had found).

I will post yield results for anyone reading this post in the years to come.

Thank you to all, I am leaving this thread to more productive fields.

Matt

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 9:24AM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

Matt - Pink Brandywine and Rutgers aren't different species - they are both different varieties of the same species.

Here is a link that might be useful: How the Tomato Succeeded

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 10:59AM
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fusion_power

And the concept of ennui does not occur to anyone? What if someone is on a 3 year mission to Mars and they get tired of eating the same old same old day after day.

Since seed are highly economical to transport, and since tomato seed are extremely easy to store in bulk, and since they readily make more seed when grown, I would just put in a few ounces of seed of several dozen varieties.

As for the height limits, those are unrealistic given the growing environment. Tomatoes in space would have to be sprawled to take advantage of artificial lighting. You could not expose them to raw sunlight, the intensity would cook the plants and the possibility of a meteor hitting glass is just too high.

The suggestion of existing varieties is again unrealistic. Given the growing conditions, it is guaranteed that most varieties would be extremely unproductive. This suggests that a tomato selected for production in limited light conditions would be top contender.

There is a ton more that could be added.

DarJones

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 1:56PM
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springlift34

What we should do is get into a serious, very personal discussion on how the tomato changed our lives.

Give Matt something to chew on. Why not? Here is a start.The tomato plant is a dominate plant in any home garden......

Take care,
Travis

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:17AM
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mudman93(3)

I love tomatoes, love them. They make up about half my garden space, but if I get into a survival situation that space will go to root crops, not tomatoes.

And BTW, can't you just prune back the plants at a certain height? I mean if I am stuck in space for five years I will be looking for something to do, and pruning a couple of plants is not going to be overwhelming (unless the crew is busy fighting off alien attacks).

Sorry I let that go, it was more thought than this thread merited.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 5:09PM
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b_kct

What I would like to take with me when I head out on a multi year mission to space, is a tomato plant that is not poisonous to cattle.

I like tomatoes, but I like steaks and milk as well.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 11:22PM
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