- International Ag Labs and Fix My Soil are researching how to produce the most nutrient-dense, flavorful and high-yield tomatoes with their Tomato Project in Plato, MN.
- Seven rows of plants are being used in the project. Each row uses a different way to fertilize the soil, ranging from organic gardening to fertility solutions developed by International Ag Labs.
- The project also looks at different ways to grow tomatoes. Three rows use a tree-planting method with wide, deep holes. It also looks at horizontal trellising, designed to increase yields in small spaces.
Tomato Project researchers say there has never been a way to look at how nutrient-dense tomatoes are, and they intend to quantify that measure based on mineral content. In the release announcing the research project, International Ag Labs soil fertility expert Jon Frank said he thinks that nutrients in tomatoes—not price or how they are grown—will drive future sales.
Today's consumers are looking for both taste and nutrition, and farming a better tomato may be a way for them to find both. Since 2011, produce sales in the United States have increased 25%. Organic produce has fared much better, with sales of organic vegetables increasing 92% in the last five years.
Tomatoes continue to be one of the nation's most popular vegetables, with 87.8 pounds of them available per capita in 2014, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service data. The summer staple is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C and K. With tomatoes being used in manufactured products ranging from sauces to dips to soups, as well as consumed on their own, a better-for-you tomato could increase sales throughout the grocery store.