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Tomato cross pollination

December 3, 2018

So this spring I would like to try intentionally cross pollinating my tomatoes. Will any tomato cross pollinate? Hybrid to hybrid, hybrid to heirloom and so on. Thanks in advance.

Comments (9)

  • Labradors

    Of course! They will all cross pollinate with each other. Have fun :).


  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    Of course, if you cross pollinate hybrid-to-hybrid, you never really know what you're going to get. You could get some pretty weird stuff. Heirloom-to-heirloom will give you the same result each time you do it, and the result should be somewhat faithful to the varieties that were combined.

  • zen_man

    Hi Jeff,

    I have found plant breeding to be a fun hobby. I work with zinnias, but you can find a lot of helpful information about breeding your own tomatoes in the book Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener

    Another book with a lot of information on breeding your own tomatoes is Breed your own Vegetable Varieties

    There are other books with material on the subject of breeding your own tomatoes, but those two should get you started. Good luck. And post some pictures here on your tomato project as it progresses.

    For the time being you could tell us some of your tomato-breeding objectives, and what varieties of tomatoes you plan to cross. How much space do you have available to grow tomatoes in?

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    I'm no expert on this subject so don't nail me up because of what I say. What could restrict your project is the shape of the stigmas on your tomato flowers. Some flowers have inserted stigmas and some have exserted (protruding) stigmas. The difference is that some flowers make it hard for insects to pollinate the blossoms. Take a look at this link. The third picture down shows both types,

    This past year I grew 10 different beefsteaks, a yellow pear, and a "Kellogg's Breakfast" tomato. A few times during the growing season I paused to look at the flowers on my plants. I never saw anything but inserted stigmas. My family has saved seeds from tomatoes back to my grandmothers days in the fifties. I've never seen any crossing of heirloom tomatoes varieties and they grew a lot of different tomatoes and my uncle ran a community garden in the city of Pittsburgh. The only crossing I saw was a pink beefsteak that would occasionally have red tomatoes on it. If you saved the seeds from the red tomato the following season you got more pink ones and no red, It seemed to me that you could slowly improve the variety you had, like eliminating thick skins and my mom used to like the huge double tomatoes so she saved seeds from those and got a lot of huge ugly tomatoes. Of course if you saved seeds from hybrids you seem to always get nothing but cherry tomatoes.

    I'd suggest you google "landrace tomato" and I think you'll find plenty of folks who use tomatoes from South America and work at developing tomatoes that have traits they prefer. I think it's mostly working on tomatoes suited for the environment you live in.... I think! I prefer big beefsteaks, mostly, else I might try my hand experimenting. I might snip off the stigma tips and see what I see and what happened.

  • authereray

    Jeff, I find your idea very interesting and would like to hear your results on what happens.

  • zen_man

    Hi Jeff,

    You can take control of the inserted stigmas and exserted (protruding) stigmas situation that John mentioned by performing your own surgeries on the tomato blooms. Since the tomato anthers surround the stigma in a bundle, you can remove the anthers to expose the stigma for pollination by different anthers (the anthers are the pollen-bearing organs) or you can use those anthers to positively apply pollen to self the bloom. And you can use those anthers to cross-pollinate a different tomato bloom.

    If you were producing F1 hybrid tomato seed in commercial quantities, manual manipulation of the tomato anthers probably wouldn't be practical, but for the sake of your own experimentation, all is fair. A single manual pollination will produce a fertile tomato fruit that can contain dozens or more of viable seeds. So, in a few minutes of your time, you could hand pollinate enough tomato seed to fill a garden.

    I face the same problem with my tubular-petaled zinnias. Their stigmas are inside the petal tubes. This is a photo of a tubular petaled zinnia bloom.

    The yellow pollen florets produce available pollen from an internal anther bundle enclosing their own stigma, so they bear a pollen seed at their base. But in order to pollinate the stigmas inside the tubular petals, I need to "surgically" expose them. It turns out, that is rather easy to do. Some tubular petals "snap" like green beans, and others can be cut open with an X-Acto knife. I have a couple of different blade designs that work well for that.

    So, I am suggesting that you can "operate" on your tomato blooms with an X-Acto knife, or an equivalent. You might even shop for scalpels on Amazon.

    Incidentally, there are advantages to be had from grafting tomatoes. There are special root-stock tomato varieties that produce better root systems than the regular varieties. Rose growers have used the root-stock technique for centuries, and tomato growers are starting to use it now. This is a video on grafting greenhouse tomatoes.

    Johnny's Selected Seeds has a lot of information.

    Johnny's also carries root stock tomato seed varieties.

    And of course, Johnny's also offers grafting supplies.

    I am not associated with Johnny's in any way, other than as an occasional customer for my zinnia hobby, and I have bought some zinnia seed from them. There are probably other companies with products for tomato grafting, but I don't happen to know of them at the moment. But I just thought you should know about the very real possibility of grafting your tomatoes. It is interesting to know that the tomato rootstocks can also be used for other closely related vegetables. Incidentally, I have not grafted any of my zinnias so far, but I wouldn't rule it out. (But not on tomato rootstocks.)

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • Jeff

    Thanks for the info everyone. This year I'll have room to plant 16 to 18 plants. I'll have a variety of both heirloom and hybrids. My plan is to cross four different plants. 2 heirloom and 2 hybrid. Should be fun and as the winter months go by I'll work out a plan of attack.

  • zen_man

    Hi Jeff,

    In case you haven't already done it, check out the Totally Tomatoes website.

    You might want to request their print catalog as well.

    My favorite tomatoes are the seedless variety.

    I enjoyed that one this last Summer.
    I like to slather the fresh slices with mayonnaise, bit didn't photograph that. I occasionally just eat home-grown tomatoes for lunch.

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • Jeff

    Oh wow, I've seen tomatoes with minimal seeds, but no seed, that's neat.

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