El Paso Master Gardeners Win with Research Project
At the 2019 Texas Master Gardener Association (TMGA) conference, the El Paso County Master Gardener Association (EPCMGA) was awarded 1st Place in the category of Large Association in the Search for Excellence 2018 Awards for a Research project. The Research award recognizes a Master Gardener project conducted with applied scientific methodology and with oversight provided by a Texas A&M AgriLife Services employee.
The Master Gardeners’ 2018 Research project began as an outgrowth of needed investigation when in 2017 the Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV) infected most of the tomato plants propagated in the EPCMGA greenhouse. Vectored, or carried, by several types of whiteflies, the virus also infected backyard and small farm gardens across the county. Inquiries to identify the problem were made to the Master Gardener Help Desk and Information Tables. To prevent future large tomato crop losses, EPCMGA recognized the need to be able to recommend tomato varieties resistant to the TYLCV.
In the spring and summer of 2018, a team of El Paso Master Gardeners, led by Master Gardener Bev Clark, conducted a tomato field trial to test tomato varieties for their resistance to the TYLCV and identify which could be successfully grown in El Paso. The field trials were conducted at the Texas A&M AgriLife Vegetable Demonstration Gardens and at the Ascarate Teaching and Demonstration Garden to replicate local conditions found at small farms and in urban backyard gardens. The trials were conducted under research-based guidelines and with recommendations of the El Paso County Horticulture Agent, Denise Rodriguez.
In February 2018 Master Gardeners and interns propagated test tomato seedlings and planted them in March. Data was collected at each harvest and a blind tomato taste test was conducted in July. Read more about the results of the tomato field trial in the article, What is the Takeaway from Our Tomato Research?, which links to the full field trial evaluation report including the test varieties and blind taste test results. After its successful completion, this tomato field trial and study was entered as a 2018 TMGA Search for Excellence Research award candidate.
We want to thank Bev Clark and her team of dedicated gardening researchers (Evelyn Posey, Sharon Valdes, Marianela Milner, and Cyndie Willey) for their hard work and perseverance needed to complete this tomato field trial. Concurrently, Ms. Clark was also working towards her advanced designation as Vegetable Specialist and successfully completed the needed work while contributing to the tomato field trial.
We also want to recognize the El Paso Master Gardener Award Committee and its Chair, Evelyn Posey, for their award-winning job in the preparation and submission of this entry to TMGA.
The TMGA Search for Excellence awards are an annual event recognizing exemplary achievement in various categories by Texas Master Gardener associations in cooperation with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M University System.
Contributors: Marlene Stalker and Evelyn Posey.