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Posted Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Scarlet Sunrise Bicolor Grape Tomato is latest from Rutgers plant breeding program

The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) tomato breeding team that developed the ‘Rutgers 250’ tomato, has created a new and unique bicolor grape tomato, Scarlet Sunrise.

Morris County Rutgers Extension Agent Develops New Grape Tomato

A unique bicolor grape tomato, ‘Scarlet Sunrise’ is the newest tomato developed by Rutgers. It was developed by traditional (non-GMO) plant breeding methods. Photo: Rutgers Extension

Developed by traditional (non-GMO) plant breeding methods, this cultivar has firm, crack-resistant red/yellow fruit, and–representative of New Jersey’s legacy of tasty tomatoes–an intense sweet flavor balanced by moderate acidity. The indeterminate plants are high yielding, with mid-late season fruit maturity. The variety is open pollinated, 70 days to maturity.

Rutgers NJAES plant breeders Pete Nitzsche, Morris County’s agriculture and natural resources agent, and Tom Orton, extension specialist in vegetables, selected grape and cherry tomatoes that tested well in Rutgers performance and taste tests and used them to cross-breed for a unique flavorful grape tomato. After eight years of field and taste testing, the promising result is being launched in 2020 as ‘Scarlet Sunrise’ bicolor grape tomato.

In addition to high marks in taste tests, Scarlet Sunrise showed notable results in field trials.

“While ‘Scarlet Sunrise’ has high yields of attractive, firm, good-tasting fruits, I am most impressed by the extended window of harvest and absence of fruit cracking under high moisture conditions,” Orton said.

‘Scarlet Sunrise’ tomato seeds are available through the Rutgers NJAES Rediscover the Jersey Tomato program. Commercial growers can obtain seed through a commercial outlet.  A Plant Variety Protection Certificate is pending.

There are a number of traits that tomato breeders focus on when developing a new cultivar. When growing for commercial markets, firmness and disease resistance are often priorities. The thing that sets the tomato breeding program apart at Rutgers is the focus is on flavor–nothing less would be expected from the home of the Jersey tomato. Two historic tomato releases from Rutgers breeding program are the Rutgers tomato (1934) and Ramapo tomato (1968).

In today’s market, that long-lost flavor eludes most tomato breeding programs. Rutgers NJAES started investigating people’s preferences to determine tasty tomato varieties when it launched the annual Great Tomato Tasting at the off-campus Rutgers Snyder Research & Extension Farm in the early 1990s, with this year’s event being held on August 26. Tomato tastings have become a regular part of Rutgers agricultural outreach programs and they provide insight into what people consider a flavorful tomato. This in turn drives the breeding efforts.

Rutgers NJAES has a robust plant breeding program – with new and novel releases enhancing selections of classic Garden State favorites like peaches, strawberries and tomatoes, or enhanced disease resistance for disease-prone varieties like sweet basil, hazelnuts and turfgrass.

For more information visit these links: Morris County Extension Service, Master Gardener Program, 4-H programs, Family and Community Health Services,

Rutgers NJAES, visit https://njaes.rutgers.edu/.