Gardeners now have another tomato option that offers traits worthy of being called a Texas Superstar plant.
Valley Cat tomatoes have been named a Texas Superstar for their resistance to nematodes and other diseases, as well as for their heat tolerance and consistent seasonal productivity of good, round, red fruit, said Larry Stein, Uvalde, grower at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
It’s a consistent performer. Valley Cat doesn’t do well one year and not so well the next, and we like the consistency across the state when it comes to Texas Superstar plants. So this adds another edible option for our gardeners.
To be called a Texas Superstar, a plant has to do well for growers across the state. Texas Superstars must also be easy to propagate to ensure plants are widely available and reasonably priced.
Meet Valley Cat tomatoes
Valley Cat tomatoes are a medium-sized plant that produces tomatoes with excellent fruit quality, Stein said. It is an early to mid-ripening variety that matures to an attractive red color with excellent and consistent internal qualities as well as an external firmness.
Tomatoes continue to ripen after harvest and are usually harvested when they begin to crack or change color, Stein said.
It’s best to pick these tomatoes when they break, as they taste so good as if ripening on the plant. Removing them from the plant and letting them ripen on the kitchen counter reduces the chances of birds, insects, or other critters attacking the fruit.
Valley Cat tomatoes are perennials but are grown as annuals in Texas due to the cold weather. They are dominant plants but can easily reach 4-5 feet in height and need to be kept in cages or stakes for support.
These vigorous plants typically produce 20 or more very plump, sturdy tomatoes and bear fruit throughout the growing season. Ripe fruit weighs about 8 ounces and is typically about 4 inches across.
Plants have resistance to three nematodes, including root knots. They are also resistant to Fusarium wilt, gray spot and Verticillium wilt. Resistance and tolerance to pests and diseases give gardeners more opportunities to grow tomatoes without worrying about specific plant-related issues.
Nematodes are becoming more common and becoming a problem for gardeners. We believe that gardeners are buying plants and introducing them to their gardens and they are appearing increasingly. So hardy and tolerant plants are a huge plus for gardeners.
planting and maintenance
Valley Cat tomatoes can be planted in any soil that drains well. Full sun exposure is required for optimal fruit production. Due to the plant’s heat tolerance, yields have been quite good for home gardening and commercial growing throughout Texas.
Valley Cat tomatoes are best planted in spring. They can be planted in mid-summer for fall harvest, although whiteflies and viruses can hamper production.
Starter plants work best when placed in larger containers to create a good root ball, Stein said.
We recommend taking 2 inch grafts and increasing them to a gallon container to create a good root system. This gives them a better start.
Stein also suggests incorporating a 3-1-2 fertilizer—three parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus, and two parts potassium—into the soil when you plant. Gardeners should then pull laterally or place fertilizer around the root system when plants are showing golfball-sized fruit, although he cautioned against adding too much nitrogen as it can burn plants. Slow-release nitrogen can also work.
Valley Cat joins Celebrity as a Texas superstar tomato. Ornamental plants have had a lot of focus in the past, but with the rise of gardens and gardening across Texas, we thought it was important to highlight plants for food production and let people know they have some really good options out there.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark of AgriLife Research, a governmental agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. Plants are selected by the Texas Superstar Board of Directors, which is made up of nine horticultural experts from AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and Texas Tech University.
Assess the body condition of sheep
Proper management of body condition scores can have a positive impact on the profitability of your flock of sheep.
Managing your flock’s body condition score can help assess the nutritional and health status of the animals. For most livestock, a BCS can be assigned by visual inspection; However, sheep’s wool can make this difficult.
Assigning a body condition score to sheep helps estimate external fat stores, which can be used to determine nutritional and health status.
Reproductive efficiency is largely determined by the animal’s diet, and ewes need better conditions during times of nutritional stress, she says. A BCS assessment can be performed anytime an animal is treated, but the sheep must be accountable for a proper assessment.
When assessing BCS, at least 10% to 20% of the herd should receive a BCS to accurately assess average herd status.
Using an average BCS can help producers take better care of animals that may need additional food or care.
How to award points
BCS is a subjective assessment performed by palpation between the vertebral and lumbar muscles between the last rib and hip bones. The first step is to find the spine between the last rib and in front of the hip bone.
They follow the pectoral muscle along the side of the sheep to locate the transverse process and assess fat deposition and muscle fullness.
The transverse process should be easier to locate in thinner sheep. The psoas and fat layer fill your palm, and the pressure required to feel the transverse process will increase as your condition increases.
Animals should be scored between 1 and 5, with:
1 emaciated and skeletal
2 be thin
3 means average with some fat coverage
4 be fat
5 means obese, with excess fat from brisket to tail
The needs of the sheep can vary depending on the life stage of the animal. A full grown ewe with a single lamb should be between 2 and 4 tall depending on whether it is being reared, lambed or weaned,” explains Quintana. A ram should be somewhere between 2 and 3 for optimal reproductive efficiency.
Managing a ram’s BCS optimizes breeding performance and semen quality, as over- or under-conditioned rams may not perform physically.
Matching scores perfectly is less important than giving a relative score and keeping it consistent across your herd. “Determining the difference between a 3 and a 3.5 is less meaningful than identifying the relative difference between a 2 and a 3.5.
Proper management of the body condition score can increase economic efficiency and optimize flock productivity. By assessing the nutritional and health status of their flock through BCS, producers can positively influence pregnancy rates and lamb survival rates.