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Tomato trials prove fruitful for growers

Trevor & Wendy Cross
Trevor Cross from Cross Family Farms in Bundaberg

This article first appeared in Vegetables Australia magazine

Warmer weather in areas such as far-north Queensland can have a profound effect on the growth cycle of vegetables and other horticultural produce. As a result, many varieties have been developed and tested to strengthen these plants against the elements.

One of these developments comes in the form of the gourmet tomato variety T411653 from Syngenta, or ‘Rifle’ as it is now referred to, which first entered Australia in 2013 as an early stage variety. It was trialed in Queensland along with 64 other new gourmet hybrid tomato varieties.

Compared to approximately 10 plants per trial, this variety was selected based on its positive performance and was trialed again in 2014 to determine greater variety abiotic stress awareness and positioning in the market.

With consistent trial results in 2014, T411653 was again promoted and further seed was required to continue a broader, larger scale trial program for 2015. Unfortunately, a global seed shortage stalled trial plans and variety momentum until additional seed became available again in 2016.


Return to market

With a new batch of fresh seed and approval of a name change, Rifle was back in the hands of growers in 2016 to undergo a more strategic trial plan. The focus was on the highest volume production areas of open field tomatoes in the Bundaberg and Bowen growing regions of Queensland, where small and large-scale commercial demonstration trials were selected to test the variety from the start to the end of the growing season.

One of the growers involved in this trial was Trevor Cross from Cross Family Farms in Bundaberg. Cross Family Farms grows a range of tomatoes including cherry, grape, Roma and gourmet as well as other vegetables such as capsicum, zucchini and pumpkin.

Syngenta representatives have worked closely with Trevor, making regular visits to his farm to gauge how the trials are progressing and observe the performance of Rifle compared to other varieties.

Trevor said the trial aimed to find a tomato which was a good size, and displayed a tolerance to warmer weather – and this variety stacked up well.

“The plant itself has got good vigour in the hotter months, and the seed quality is good. It’s just a good quality field tomato,” Trevor said.

Other growers have described Rifle as a consistent performer across all growing cycles with a ‘globe’ fruit shape averaging between 160-180 gram fruit weight, which fits well with market requirements. It can also produce high yields, good uniformity, fruit firmness, shelf life and high weather tolerance.