The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 24, 2013

Blight-resistant tomato seeds offered


For The Register-Herald

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A limited supply of seeds for the West Virginia 63, a blight-resistant tomato developed at West Virginia University, will be available for home gardeners beginning March 4.

The tomato, bred by WVU Professor Emeritus Mannon Gallegly, was created to resist blight and was unveiled in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s centennial celebration.

Signs of blight, which is of concern to many gardeners, include brown spots or lesions on the stems, olive green or brown patches on the leaves, and white fungal growth underneath.

“Overall, it’s a good canning tomato and a good slicing tomato for the table,” said Gallegly, who retired from WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design in 1986. “A lot of people just eat slices of the tomato between two pieces of bread. That’s the way I eat ’em.”

As WVU celebrates the tomato’s 50th birthday, and as West Virginia celebrates its 150th birthday, Gallegly and WVU colleagues have harvested a supply of seeds to let Mountaineer fans grow a piece of history in their own yards and patios.

To claim a packet of seeds, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to WV-63 Tomato, P.O. Box 6108, WVU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Unit, Morgantown, WV 26506-6108.

Seeds will be mailed out beginning March 4, with a limit of one packet per household, while supplies last. Seeds can also be requested through local WVU Extension offices.

Gallegly, who will be 90 this year, targeted tomato blight almost as soon as he began his work at WVU in 1949. It’s the same disease that caused the Irish potato crop to fail in the 19th century, and triggered a famine and mass migration.

You can find Gallegly’s story in the winter issue of the WVU Magazine, which includes a video that details his career at WVU, which brought West Virginia and the world an indestructible tomato.