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Whitefly, tomato growers find truce in new Texas variety

h about the possibility of developing an open-pollinated, virus-resistant variety," he said.

Help came from previous research conducted in Texas, aided by national and international vegetable breeding networks, Crosby said.

"Dr. Paul Leeper, who was a scientist at (AgriLife Research in) Weslaco for decades, did a lot of the early work on hot climate, processing tomatoes. As a result, he built a lot of very good varieties for the industry. In fact, his tomatoes at one point were the most popular tomatoes in tropical places because they could tolerate the heat," Crosby noted. "But we found out that they could not tolerate the new viruses that have been brought in by the whitefly."

Crosby called upon colleagues in Florida and Taiwan, who had identified tomato genes that provide resistance to the viral disease, in seeking plants to cross with the Texas varieties. He got a supply to test from Dr. Peter Hansen at the World Vegetable Research and Development Center in Taiwan, as well as from Dr. Jay Scott, a world-famous tomato breeder at the University of Florida.

"We were able to cross those lines with our Weslaco lines and generate material that was adapted to Texas and that had good processing qualities," Crosby said.

For now, the new variety called T-5 is being tested by some producers in the Rio Grande Valley and Crosby said the results are promising.

"Because it combines two distinct virus-resistance genes, resistance has been outstanding," he said.

"The new variety is impressive," said Ault, whose company cans a mixture of diced tomatoes and green peppers for H-E-B's Hill Country Fare label.

"We like the T-5 very much," he said. "It is highly productive, has good flavor, good color and is virus resistant. What we don't like about it is that it is an indeterminate variety, meaning not all the fruit sets and matures on the plant at the same time. As a processor, we prefer one that sets fruit all

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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