Tomato Research History
The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station was established at Rutgers University in 1880 and conducted research and education for New Jersey’s farmers. Early research on tomato production focused on cultural practices for controlling weeds, diseases and insects, and improving fertilization. In 1900, tomato breeding began by growing nearly all the commercial varieties of tomatoes and crossing many of the different varieties. NJAES tomato research in the 20th century supported New Jersey farmers in growing abundant healthy crops of Jersey tomatoes, and the releases of ‘Rutgers’ and ‘Ramapo’ tomatoes provided growers and gardeners with top-performing varieties.
Rutgers researchers continue to provide New Jersey agriculture with recommendations for growing tomato crops, and breeding varieties that maintain the flavor of old-time tomato varieties, and improved qualities. Tomato variety trials at Rutgers Snyder Research Farm look at how a wide range of tomato varieties perform in New Jersey. The fruit of this research labor is then offered for the public to taste at Snyder Farm’s annual Great Tomato Tasting. Information on these varieties is available in the NJAES tomato variety database.
Research has also looked at other factors that affect tomato flavor, like growing practices. A survey of old time Jersey tomato growers looked at soil amendments, irrigation practices, and varieties from the 1950s – 70s, compared to those in use today.
Research trials on soil salinity enhancing tomato flavor were conducted at Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center: Can Soil Fertility Improve Tomato Flavor? and Soil, Salt, and Tomato Taste