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Heritage tomato, high tunnel


The ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato has historical roots in West Virginia and central Appalachia. The strain which is most often associated with West Virginia is the ‘Radiator Charlie Mortgage Lifter’ which is a red to pink beefsteak slicing tomato (Figure 1). In 2018, several heritage tomato varieties were evaluated within high tunnels in West Virginia. High Tunnels significantly improved yield and quality of all varieties, and ‘Mortgage Lifter’ had marketable yields comparable to hybrid tomato cultivars. Wholesale marketing high tunnel tomatoes is usually not profitable but concentrating on unique, heritage varieties with high flavor for direct marketing is the best strategy for maximizing profit. Since there is a strong demand for heritage varieties unique to Appalachia, our objective in 2019 was to acquire ‘Mortgage Lifter’ seed from several commercial seed companies and local seed savers and determine which variety or landrace had optimal yield and quality within high tunnels. There is tremendous diversity in what is marketed as a ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato by several seed companies. Screening will help identify the best lines for commercial production of this heritage variety.