Monday, July 27, 2009

My Shiny, New Tomato Grader

There are many wonderful aspects of my job as an agriculture extension agent, two of them are working with a diversity of folks and getting my hands dirty.

Last week I got to help out harvesting a variety trial for Harris Moran. The trial involves 27 different commercial varieties of tomatoes (11 Roma and 16 round, red). This was just the first picking of the trial and because we haven't had an abundance of sunny, hot days this summer it was late and only the early fruiting varieties had lots of fruit to be harvested.

After the round, red tomato fruit are picked they are graded based on size and shape. For shape they are given a 1-10 rating, with 1 being flat, 5 being perfectly round and 10 being very tall and elongated. Grading the tomatoes is something I find to be really fun! In a packing operation the packing line does the size grading for you, using holes and conveyors, but in field trials we get to do this by hand.

As a surprise I received my very own, brand new, shiny set of aluminum tomato grading cards (see pictures below).

The tomato grading cards separate fruit by diameter. If a tomato doesn't fit through the top hole but fits through the bottom hole, it belongs in that grade. For example, see the card below. A tomato that is considered a 5X6 will be too big to fit through the top hole of this card but will fit through the bottom hole just perfectly. Pretty easy!

These are a very valuable tool for evaluating the quality and consistency of tomato fruit for a specific variety. And now I have my very own set!

I know, I know... The little things...

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