West Virginia University researchers create new tomatoes

Photo Provided Mannon Gallegly, professor emeritus of plant pathology at West Virginia University, holds his 1963 tomato, dubbed the people’s tomato.

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University has named two new varieties of tomatoes created by school researchers to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

West Virginia ’17A and West Virginia ’17B were developed by Mahfuz Rahman and Mannon Gallegly, a professor who in 1963 created a new tomato for the centennial.

From ore than 100 submissions, West Virginia 17A was called Mountaineer Pride and 17B was called Mountaineer Delight.

“Though we initially considered the idea of releasing only one variety, it became apparent to me that both varieties were very good — each in their own way,” said Gallegly, professor emeritus of plant pathology. “Also, the more I thought about it, the more I recognized the value in keeping with the tradition of honoring our state and recognizing the year in which it was released, just as we did with the West Virginia ’63.

“There will be others who follow in my and Mahfuz’s footsteps, creating their own tomatoes, so by indicating the year of release within each name helps scientists like us keep them all straight.”

Photo Provided Mahfuz Rahman

Gallegly and Rahman also see the value of incorporating the two most popular names submitted by the public.

“It’s hard to believe we received 114 submissions,” said Rahman, associate professor of plant pathology and WVU Extension specialist. “I’m grateful people see the value of these developments and are interested in engaging in the process in a fun and creative way.”

Of the entries submitted, the names or some variation of Mountaineer Pride or Mountaineer Delight were the most duplicated entries.

“The West Virginia ’17A is a firmer tomato, with a thicker cell wall, and better suited for commercial use since it’s easier to ship,” Gallegly said.

“The West Virginia ’17B is more suited for home gardeners,” he said.

“It’s sweeter than the ’17A — and even sweeter than the ’63 tomato — and is more of a beefsteak tomato, with a beautiful internal color.”

Gallegly’s 1963 tomato was dubbed the people’s tomato.

Both tomatoes are resistant to late blight and Septoria lycopersici, a fungus that causes a destructive disease commonly referred to as Septoria leaf spot.

The next step is Gallegly and Rahman will deposit the seeds to the USDA Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit. The unit develops strategies and technologies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of plant genebanks, while conserving genetic diversity of plant populations, including genes and specific genotypes in the form of seeds, plant cuttings and pollen.

For those interested in obtaining seeds, contact Silas Childs, director of the WVU Evansdale Greenhouse, by emailing schilds@mail.wvu.edu, or Rahman by emailing MM.Rahman@mail.wvu.edu.

“We will need to identify some seed companies that will carry these for longer term,” Rahman said. “But in the meantime, we are more than happy to share the limited supply of seeds we currently have, making them available to West Virginians — and many of our friends throughout the country — just as we’ve done in the past.”