The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) tomato breeding team that developed the ‘Rutgers 250’ tomato, has created a new and unique bicolor grape tomato, ‘Scarlet Sunrise‘. Developed by traditional (non-GMO) plant breeding methods, this cultivar has firm, crack-resistant red/yellow fruit, and–representative of New Jersey’s legacy of tasty tomatoes–an intense sweet flavor balanced by moderate acidity. The indeterminate plants are high yielding, with mid-late season fruit maturity.
Rutgers NJAES has a 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 flavor–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.”