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NC State Extension

Fresh Market Tomato Breeding Program

2019 GH tomato
Dilip R. Panthee, Ph.D.

Tomato Breeder and Associate Professor
Horticultural Science
Randolph G. Gardner, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus

Tomato Breeding Program Emphasis


The fresh market tomato breeding program emphasizes the development of improved, disease resistant cultivars adapted to production in North Carolina and surrounding areas. Currently, emphasis is on combining early and late blight resistances, Fusarium wilt race 3, and tomato spotted wilt virus resistance into superior tomato breeding lines and hybrids. In terms of horticultural traits, breeding is for earliness, large fruit size, firmness, color, flavor, smoothness, crack resistance, shelf life (rin and nor genes), and high temperature fruit set. Combinations of quality features and disease resistance are sought in a variety of types (large-fruited, Roma, cherry, grape) and in red and yellow fruit colors. Male sterility is being incorporated into desirable backgrounds to facilitate hybrid seed production.


Molecular breeding will be introduced and integrated to complement the conventional methods of incorporating disease resistance, stress tolerance, fruit quality and other desired horticultural traits into adapted cultivars. A molecular breeding laboratory will be established for the development and use of new molecular techniques in the tomato breeding program. Already identified and confirmed molecular markers will be used to improve the efficiency of selection while efforts will be initiated to identify new markers associated with traits for which markers are yet to be identified. Major focus will be placed on PCR-based but co-dominant molecular markers such as SSR, CAPS, AFLP and SNP. Screening of multiple populations of heat stress, disease resistance and fruit quality is expected to detect the molecular markers associated with gene(s) of interest, which will eventually be used for marker-assisted selection (MAS).

Projected Impact

Tomato growers will be able to sustain and, hopefully, increase production and profitability as a result of growing improved cultivars. Consumers will benefit from improvements in fruit quality and diversity in types of fresh-market tomatoes. Advancement of disease resistance genes from wild backgrounds into cultivated types will benefit tomato production and cultivar development worldwide.

Dilip R. Panthee, Ph.D.
Randolph G. Gardner, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus
Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center
455 Research Drive
Mills River, NC 28759
Phone: 828.684.7503 ~ Fax: 828.684.8715