The TOMI Project Aims to Help Tomato Growers Better Manage Foliar Diseases – Vegetable Crops Hotline

The TOMI Project Aims to Help Tomato Growers Better Manage Foliar Diseases

Effectively managing foliar diseases including late blight (LB), early blight (EB), and Septoria leaf spot (SLS), is one of the biggest challenges facing organic tomato growers. New, resistant hybrid varieties are available, but organic growers often plant heirloom varieties instead because they are perceived to have superior flavor and growers can save seed. Copper fungicides can provide fair control of these diseases, but these products are contact, not systemic, and must be applied often, which can negatively impact soil and water quality. The tomato organic management and improvement project (TOMI), led by Lori Hoagland in the Horticulture Department at Purdue, brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the U.S. to develop short, medium and long-term solutions to this challenge. In the short-term, the team aims to identify biofungicide and biostimulant combinations that can effectively control LB, EB and SLS. Greenhouse and field trials are underway testing various combinations of these products in Indiana and North Carolina. Preliminary results from 2016 indicate the some biologically based products are as effective as copper fungicides in controlling these diseases. In the medium-term, the team aims to develop new open-pollinated tomato varieties that are resistant to LB, EB and SLS, and have exceptional fruit flavor demanded by consumers shopping in local markets. Breeding populations are being screened alongside commercial controls in organic field trials at university research stations in Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin, and recombined during winter in the greenhouse to strengthen desirable traits. Further screening and selection of lines for potential release will be conducted in collaboration with organic growers in on-farm trials during 2017 and 2018. Finally, the team aims to develop an improved understanding of factors that regulate expression of induced systemic resistance (ISR), which refers to an enhanced defensive state in plants mediated by beneficial microbes. In the long-term, this research will help this biologically based form of disease control to be integrated into future breeding programs, and management practices that enhance ISR expression in the field identified. Greenhouse and field trials are underway to determine how variety, soil and microbial factors regulate ISR expression.

Results of the research conducted by the TOMI project will help both organic and conventional tomato growers better manage foliar diseases, while meeting the demands of local customers for superior tomato flavor. This project was funded in 2014 by an Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant, part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Award #2014-51300-22267. Additional information and updates about this project can be accessed at

Webinars to Focus on Organic Tomato Breeding, Flavor, and Disease Management

 The TOMI project and eOrganic are partnering to host two online webinars this month that highlight the project and feature results to date. The first in this two-part live-broadcast series was held on March 7th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, and the second will be held on March 30th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Both webinars are free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required to participate in the live webinars. Both webinars will be archived on the eOrganic website and available for viewing at:

Webinar 1: Tomato Varietal Improvement

When: March 7, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern (1:00 p.m. Central, 12:00 p.m. Mountain, 11:00 a.m. Pacific)

Cost: Free

Register: Click here or visit

Organic vegetable growers need varieties that are adapted to their farming systems. In this webinar, presenters will describe how farmers and formal breeders can develop improved vegetable varieties on their farm or in their breeding program using examples from the TOMI project. Specific topics will include: identifying key traits and choosing appropriate parents, making crosses and selecting from populations for desirable traits, using genetic markers to aid in selection, and more.

Webinar 2: Using Biofungicides, Biostimulants and Biofertilizers to Boost Crop Productivity and Help Manage Vegetable Diseases

When: March 30, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern (1:00 p.m. Central, 12:00 p.m. Mountain, 11:00 a.m. Pacific)

Cost: Free

Register: Click here or visit

Effectively managing diseases is one of the biggest challenges facing organic vegetable growers. There is currently a wide range of biologically based products available on the market that claim to boost crop growth and help plants withstand many plant diseases. However, there are few independent, science-based studies to validate the efficacy of some of these products as well as instructions detailing how and when to apply them to achieve the best results. In this webinar, presenters will describe the different types of products available in the marketplace today, provide an overview of recent studies evaluating their efficacy, and discuss strategies for identifying the most effective products and application practices.

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