Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Tomato - "Angora 82"

I have been looking for angora leaf tomato seeds for sale in Australia.  Some very knowledgeable people tell me there are no angora leaf tomatoes in Australia.  That seems odd to me, as there used to be at least one angora tomato in Australia many years ago.  I used to grow it. 

After talking to some tomato breeders and dedicated seed savers it appeared that sadly the angora gene had possibly been lost from Australia.
Angora 82 leaf and fruit
Angora 82
Recently I have been given some very old seeds.  Some were from my old garden and are the left over seeds that I saved (and some that I bred, others that I kept pure) when I was a child.  Others were given to me from a friend whose gardening father recently passed and contained a rather eclectic mix of seeds that he collected from all over the world and grew/preserved over the course of his life.  They are all very old seeds, some germinated, others sadly did not, some are named, others were not, some are named but I can't read the writing.  While rummaging through these seeds I happened across some tomato seeds labelled "Angora 82".
Angora 82 leaves
Excitedly I planted almost all of the seeds in the hope that this would be a tomato with the the fabled lost angora leaf gene.  If it was, I not only planned to bring this variety back, I also wanted to use it in breeding new angora leaf tomato varieties.

Angora tomato leaves are covered in hairs.  Sometimes they have more and denser hairs than normal, sometimes they have longer hairs, sometimes the individual hairs are branched.  The exact angora phenotype depends on which gene is responsible.

Angora 82, in the right light it shines
Genes responsible for Angora tomatoes
There are four different genes that could cause angora leaf in tomatoes.Two are homozygous lethal, meaning that if a seed carries two copies of the angora gene it will die.  Planting seeds of these will always result in a percentage of plants without angora leaf.  The non-angora leaf plants do not carry the angora gene.

The other two genes are both homozygous viable, meaning that if a seed carries two copies of the angora gene then it does not die.  It also means that it is difficult to know if the tomato only carries one copy of the angora gene.
Angora 82 flower truss - pretty productive
Angora 82 tomato
I have no idea which gene is responsible in this case.  I have only grown a small number of seeds, but all of them have exhibited angora foliage, so I am assuming it is one of the homozygous viable genes.  This is good and bad.  It is good because it means that if seeds are saved they will not always have a percentage of non-angora leaf.  It is bad as it means breeding this trait into a new variety is a bit slower.

I don't know why this is called 'angora 82'.  Is this the same variety as "angora super sweet" and/or "velvet red"?  My guess is probably not, but it might be.  It isn't always possible to tell that Angora 82 is angora leaf unless it is in the right light.

Given the right light the leaves shimmer and look a little silver, but most of the time they look similar to any other tomato leaf.  It would be nice if the leaf hairs were longer so it looked a but nicer.  Sometimes I wonder why they called this Angora because the leaf looks so similar to a regular tomato leaf, it certainly isn't anywhere near as fuzzy as the angora leaf tomatoes I used to grow.  When using a hand lense it is simple to see that it has far more leaf hairs than my other tomatoes.

What are the advantages of 'Angora 82' tomatoes
This plant grew rather well through the cooler part of spring while all my other tomatoes just sat there refusing to grow.  It was the first tomato to fruit in my garden, which was rather impressive.  This may be because the leaf experienced less abrupt changes in temperature or humidity due to the density of leaf hairs, or it may have nothing to do with that.

Each truss had around 20 flowers and most of them set fruit.  It was a determinate plants, which I am not overly fond of, but it produced a large yield. due to the large number of flowers per truss and the decent number of trusses per plant.

The tomatoes were small, but had a nice tomato taste, they were also pretty sweet.  Fruit on the same truss on the same plant showed a little diversity in shape, some were round, some were round with a point on the end.

Angora 82 fruit
Where to get seed for Angora 82 tomatoes
I will probably sell seed through my for sale page.  I have bagged the flowers but a small amount of crossing may be possible as we are swamped  by Rutherglen bugs each summer and they are small enough to get into the bags.  Considering how infrequently tomatoes cross this should not be a huge problem.

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