CORVALLIS, March 7, 2003 - Oregon State University
Agricultural Experiment Station vegetable breeders have developed a
blight resistant, yet early-bearing tomato. Seeds and transplants of this
promising tomato, called 'Legend,' will be available at seed companies and
nurseries this spring.
'Legend' sets fairly large fruit under the
cool maritime conditions of the Pacific Northwest. Plant breeders classify
tomatoes such as these as "parthenocarpic," because they set fruit without
fertilization. This means that the cool weather of western Oregon summers
that slows down pollinators won't affect the fruit set of this type of
tomato plant; parthenocarpic tomato plants set fruit without a pollinator's
"We think that parthenocarpic varieties
are earlier because they are setting fruit when non-parthenocarpic varieties
are dropping their blossoms, because cold weather prevents fertilization,"
Deborah Kean, a research assistant at the OSU vegetable research
farm outside of Corvallis.
With considerably larger fruits than
'Oregon Spring' or 'Siletz' - other OSU-developed early varieties - 'Legend'
sets fruit earlier than 'Oregon Spring' and sometimes earlier than 'Siletz'.
The 'Legend' plant appears to be stronger,
with larger stiffer leaves than the other two varieties. 'Legend' is a
determinate plant, typically spreading to 36 inches in good growing
As a bonus, 'Legend' is resistant to
blight, a fungal disease that kills tomato plants in home and market
gardens. Late blight is caused by the same fungus (Phytophthora infestans)
that caused the famous
famine of the 1840s. All strains are devastating to tomatoes and
With mid-May planting of transplants, the
first 'Legend' fruits typically ripen at the OSU Vegetable Research Farm
outside of Corvallis by about Aug. 1, with an early peak of production.
To grow your own 'Legend' transplants, seed
should be started indoors about mid-April if you have ideal growing
conditions, with heated soil and grow lights. If you are starting your seeds
in a window or in an unheated greenhouse, it is better to start them as
early as the first half of March, advised
'Legend' fruits are round, averaging about
a half-pound each, but may reach or exceed a pound, and they are nearly four
inches wide. 'Legend' has more uniform ripening than 'Siletz' or 'Oregon Spring'.
Resistance to a disease like late blight is
different from immunity, warned
Jim Myers, OSU vegetable breeder who helped develop 'Legend'.
"What we mean by resistance is that
progress of the disease is slowed," explained
Myers. "Gardeners can expect a two- to three-week longer
harvest period than susceptible tomato cultivars. But given the right
blight may eventually overcome the resistance. Resistance is
not an 'end all'."
blight is a difficult disease for which to breed because there are a
number of different races of
he added. "Genes in the tomato plant for resistance are race specific, so
if a new race invades, or the old race mutates, then resistance may break
down. Resistance has held up in Oregon, but I've had reports of it breaking
down on Vancouver Island (in British Columbia) and in the San Francisco
Myers worked with
James R. Baggett,
retired OSU vegetable breeder, to develop 'Legend'. Both
Myers believe that 'Legend' is an overall superior tomato to 'Siletz'
and 'Oregon Spring', even without considering its