From the greenhouse to the field to the supermarket Dr Charlie Rush is beginning a program to look at tomato growth in the High Plains Texas AampM AgriLife Communications photos by Kay Ledbetter

From the greenhouse to the field to the supermarket, Dr. Charlie Rush is beginning a program to look at tomato growth in the High Plains. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photos by Kay Ledbetter)

Can improved production bring back tomatoes to Texas?

High-value vegetable research efforts focusing on tomatoes in the Texas High Plains will involve multiple agencies and disciplines to look at irrigation, varieties and production management.

Back in the 1960s, Texas farmers planted more than 32,000 acres of fresh market tomatoes. By 2009, acreage has plummeted to less than 1,000.

Most of the lost acreage went to Mexico and Florida, and at today’s yields and prices it represents approximately $250 million per year in lost revenue.

Maybe some of those acres can be recovered. A new multi-agency and multi-discipline research effort including Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service and West Texas A&M University personnel, will target producing tomatoes in the Texas High Plains.

Charlie Rush, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo says demand for Texas tomatoes is a factor.

“There has been a major interest expressed by retailers in the state and other clientele to develop a more stable supply of high quality locally grown vegetables, specifically tomatoes,” Rush said. “Everybody loves fresh tomatoes, but often when you buy them in the supermarket, the taste is not there.”

“There has been a major interest expressed by retailers in the state and other clientele to develop a more stable supply of high quality locally grown vegetables, specifically tomatoes,” Rush said. “Everybody loves fresh tomatoes, but often when you buy them in the supermarket, the taste is not there.”

He says producers need production information that is regionally adapted, including high production on smaller acreage and with less water.

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