NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - You can judge for yourself whether the new grape tomato recently unveiled by agricultural experts at Rutgers - intensely sweet, but with a moderate amount of acidity - seems to embody life in New Jersey.
What is undeniable is that the Rutgers New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station's Scarlet Sunrise lives up to its name with its shades pretty shades of red and yellow.
Developed by the same NJAES team that created the Rutgers 250 tomato a few years ago, the Scarlet Sunrise was created using traditional (non-GMO) plant breeding methods. This cultivar has firm, crack-resistant red/yellow fruit. The indeterminate plants are high yielding, with mid-late season fruit maturity.
It's another example of Rutgers' robust plant breeding program – with new and novel releases enhancing selections of classic Garden State favorites like peaches, strawberries and tomatoes, or enhanced disease resistance for disease prone varieties like sweet basil, hazelnuts and turfgrass.
There are a number of traits that tomato breeders focus on when developing a new cultivar. When growing for commercial markets, firmness and disease resistance are often priorities. The thing that sets the tomato breeding program apart at Rutgers is the focus is on flavo r– nothing less would be expected from the home of the Jersey tomato. Two historic tomato releases from Rutgers breeding program are the Rutgers tomato (1934) and Ramapo tomato (1968).
In today’s market, that long-lost flavor eludes most tomato breeding programs. Rutgers NJAES started investigating people’s preferences to determine tasty tomato varieties when it launched the annual Great Tomato Tasting at the off-campus Rutgers Snyder Research & Extension Farm in the early 1990s, with this year’s event being held on August 26. Tomato tastings have become a regular part of Rutgers agricultural outreach programs and they provide insight into what people consider a flavorful tomato. This in turn drives the breeding efforts.
Rutgers NJAES plant breeders–extension specialist in vegetables Tom Orton and Pete Nitzsche, agriculture and natural resources county agent of Morris County, selected grape and cherry tomatoes that tested well in Rutgers performance and taste tests and used them to cross-breed for a unique flavorful grape tomato. After eight years of field and taste testing, the promising result is being launched in 2020 as Scarlet Sunrise bicolor grape tomato (Plant Variety Protection Certificate pending).
In addition to rating well in taste tests, Scarlet Sunrise showed notable results in field trials. Orton remarked, “While ‘Scarlet Sunrise’ has high yields of attractive, firm, good-tasting fruits, I am most impressed by the extended window of harvest and absence of fruit cracking under high moisture conditions.”