Gardeners can now "protect" the tomato crop from the
non-productivity and/or odd colored fruit caused by TSWV contamination.
There is a hybrid tomato variety named 'Tomato 444' which has
natural plant resistant to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and the problems
it causes. The fruit is large and the quality is excellent. '444'
is the only virus resistant hybrid which has been extremely productive
as well as resistant to TSWV. Most of the tomato varieties which
have done extremely well in this area are hybrids. These include
Big Set, Celebrity, Bingo and Merced. The super broccoli, Green
Comet, and the fast maturing cauliflower, Snow Crown are hybrids
which display superlative characteristics.
A hybrid is a first generation cross of two genetically different
varieties. In order to obtain a high degree of uniformity, the
parent lines are usually the result of inbreeding for several
generations. Producing stock seed inbreds is a difficult task
that may require years to perfect. The resulting crosses produce
hybrids which are often sterile. The seed company that developed
the hybrid then has an exclusive in sales which helps to pay for
research, development cost and company motivation for continued
Many vegetables require hand pollination to produce the hybrid
lines. Labor is expensive and often the costs are reflected in
the price of the hybrid seed. In order to reduce costs, some companies
use foreign labor and produce their seeds in South America or
the Far East. Some hybrid seeds cost as much as 3-10 times the
price of open-pollinated seed. Hybrid tomato seed can sell for
over $40 for 1000 seed so hybrids such as '444' will ONLY be available
as transplants, i.e., seed will not be packaged.
Hybrid seed has the advantage of high degree of uniformity as
all the seeds are very similar genetically. This factor is very
important in crops such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage. Hybrid
crosses also seem to have an additional spark called hybrid vigor.
The plants grow rapidly with good uniformity. By producing inbred
lines with good disease resistance, the resulting hybrid crosses
may inherit these qualities. This is why 'Tomato 444' has resistance
to TSWV and other foliage diseases.
Just the fact that a variety is a hybrid does not make it an
automatic winner, however. The horticultural merits of a hybrid
must also be proven in every growing area, just as those of any
other variety released. 'Tomato 444' has been tested for several
years by the Texas Cooperative Extension with the help of Gardening
Volunteers of South Texas and has never not produced a large crop
of quality tomatoes. Yield and size data at:
shows that 'Tomato 444' (listed as BHN 444) yielded more fruit
which were a larger size than Merced, Celebrity, Whirlaway, Bingo
and Heatwave. This tendency was also repeated in the fall season
as documented at:
This selection has been test marketed as 'Healthy Surprise'
(the plant is "healthy" and eating tomatoes makes the
grower healthy as well!--it will "Surprise" you with
an abundance of large fruit!) as described at:
Second generation seed at is also available from this website.
Gardeners always want to know how a tomato variety tastes. Tomato
taste is an individual preference so you have to decide that for
yourself using the growing conditions in your garden. However,
in the spring, '2000, variety trial, a taste test reveiled that
'Tomato 444' was rated better than 'SunMaster' or 'Celebrity'.
The Tomato444 is hard-to-find and expensive for the nurserymen
so if there is danger of frost, high winds or hail, follow the
and repot the transplants to expand the root system and provide
"insurance' plants by following this information:
Purchase good transplants of the Extension recommended and Texas
SuperStar variety named 'Tomato444'. If it is too early to plant
transplants in your area and you put them in the ground, THEY
FROZEN! Yet transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should
established as soon in the spring as feasibly possible so they
blooming profusely when the optimum fruit setting conditions occur.
how can you safely grow Tomato444 plants during risky weather
conditions? Simply buy plants with the intention of producing
bitransplants (a bitransplant is a regular transplant which will
planted twice instead of once). Purchase transplants with the
putting them in pots instead of the soil.
A plant in a pot has the distinct advantage of being portable.
This means that you can react when the weather person says the
temperature will be 35 degrees F. You know from experience the
temperature will more-than-likely be either 25 degrees or 45 degrees
now you can move your portable plant into a protected location.
colder temperature occurs, you and your plants can sit by the
those who transplanted directly into the garden too early are
every blanket in the house and receiving frost bite on their backs
attempting to protect exposed plants. Even if they succeed, the
will not prevent the growth-retarding effects of cold soil and
The potted plant will be expanding its root system at a faster
rate than those in the soil because the potting soil will be warmer
porous. Never use garden soil in a container. Instead purchase
well-draining potting mix. Since the mix contains no fertilizer
elements, mix in the right (according to label instructions) amounts
slow-release fertilizer pellets such as Osmocote before planting
gallon-size container. Add a water-soluble fertilizer to the water
time the plants are moistened -- DO NOT OVERWATER or you will
precious transplants. Stick your finger in the potting soil and
feel moisture--WALK AWAY!!! If you water too much, the base of
plants will rot and the plants will wilt. It is best to keep the
on the "dry side" rather than overwatering them to death.
Keep the plants in full sunlight situation to avoid stretching
spindly growth. Transplanting of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants
safely occur in mid to late March in San Antonio and South; Hillcountry
gardeners should wait until after April 10; for timing in other
the state, see the planting and transplanting table at:
REMEMBER: Protect potted transplants from virus-spreading insects
wind damage by covering with Grow-Web as mentioned in # 3 of the
growing advice at:
To see how important it is to eat tomatoes and tomato products,