“This variety is actually the result of a problem,” says Erwin de Kok, Tomato Sales Specialist at BASF’s breeding company, about the NUN09398 tomato. This new cherry tomato has intermediate resistance (IR) against the dreaded Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). Erwin recently took the variety to Fruit Logistica, where, alongside the tomato concept RedNoir, attracted much attention from the experts. Resistant varieties, after all, are in demand after two years of ever-increasing virus issues.
This winter, a tomato grower from the Benelux planted no less than eight hectares of this yet-to-be-named variety. It is to be christened in the summer. Planting at the grower will follow in October-November. “We have chosen to fast-track this variety, supported by data. That means we are going for a quick market introduction.”
“ToBRFV is mainly a grower, not retailer, problem,” says Edwin, who is familiar with both sides of the market. The growers want certainty about being able to grow a variety that won’t fail due to viruses. Supermarkets want tomatoes with stable, good quality and flavor. We try to offer both. When adding resistances, we don’t want to compromise on a variety’s strengths.”
NUN09398 tomatoes are intermediately resistant to ToBRFV
This new tomato is in the same segment as the breeding company’s Adorion variety. “Market problems prompted us to develop a unique solution that gives the market the availability and reliability it demands,” Edwin explains. He says the new variety is very uniform. “That, along with resistance, is an important breeding point. A uniform variety saves on cultivation, processing, and packaging labor.” BASF expects to present more resistant varieties later this year.
Due to labor issues, smaller tomato varieties are more often grown in Southern Europe and North Africa. Less so, TOVs. “The vine stalk’s shelf life sometimes hinders transport to Northern Europe. The green parts have to look fresh, so winter crops are increasingly gaining ground over vine tomatoes from the South,” de Kok continues.
Also, cultivation in Southern Europe and North Africa is often far from high-tech in greenhouses. That said, new varieties are continually being developed there too. BASF’s RedNoir, for example, comes from this low-tech market. This new cocktail tomato with its glossy black skin and red flesh was introduced last year. “That gives the tomato a luxurious look.”
Other European farmers, too, are currently testing this variety. In doing so, BASF is trying to make the step into the high-tech market. Carlos Bonilla, Crop Marketing Manager: “BASF is already strong with ToBRFV-resistant plum tomatoes, like Azovian, in the low-tech market. We are now also introducing a round, high-quality cocktail tomato.”
“This tomato is firmer, stores better (up to three weeks), and isn’t messy to slice. We found that parents appreciate that,” says Carlos. Tomatoes are healthy, too, he points out. “Tomatoes are a source of lycopene, anthocyanins, and antioxidants like vitamin C,” Carlos concludes.