Effect of Heat Stress on Fruit Set in Four Commercial Tomato Varieties


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Andrea LaPlante
Committee: Alisa Hove, Liesl Erb, Amy Boyd

Global climate change is gaining significance as a threat to worldwide agricultural production as increasing temperatures have begun to reduce crop yields and threaten food security. Given that climatic changes vary regionally, it is necessary to predict how major crops will respond to climate change at a local scale. In the Piedmont of North Carolina tomatoes are an economically important agricultural product; this study investigated the effects of heat stress conditions on the fruit set of four commercial tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) cultivars commonly grown in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. Cultivars ‘Big Beef,’ ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Martha Washington’ and ‘Pink Girl’ were grown in irrigated field conditions at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury, NC along with two heat-tolerant controls (NC84173 and NC1CS) and two heat-intolerant controls (‘Solar Set’ and ‘Sun Leaper.’) Heat stress conditions occurred when minimum daily temperatures remained above 21°C, maximum daily temperatures rose above 30°C and mean daily temperatures were upwards of 24°C. Although the herbicide 2, 4-D drifted from a nearby field and damaged many of the plants, cultivars ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Celebrity’ had significantly different fruit sets than the low fruit setting, heat-intolerant control NC1CS and therefore are promising as heat-tolerant tomato cultivars.