Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 12: 41-42 (Feb 1887)
The influence of heredity upon vigor
Emmett S. Goff

The results of two series of experiments with the tomato plant, carried on during the past three seasons, furnish a forcible illustration of the influence of the health of the parents upon progeny in plants.

In the fall of 1883 a single plant was noticed in a row of tomatoes that appeared more feeble, and had more of its fruits decayed than any other. A few seeds were gathered from some of the sound fruits of this feeble plant, and at the same time, a few from sound fruits on a neighboring plant that appeared healthy and vigorous. The following spring the two samples of seeds were sown, and the young plants transplanted to adjoining rows in the garden. It was a surprise to find that in habit the plants of each row closely resembled the parents, i.e., the progeny of the feeble plant was also feeble, even more so than was the parent, while that of the vigorous plant appeared entirely healthy. The difference in the two rows was so marked that, but for the unquestionable identity of the fruit, one would scarcely have thought it possible that they could be of the same variety. The same selections of seed were continued through 1885 and 1886, with like results. The past season the progeny of the feeble plant of 1883 scarcely exceeded one-fourth the size of that of the vigorous one. The plants lay prostrate on the ground, with discolored and shriveled foliage, and with the fruits fully one-half decayed before frost came. This decay is a soft rot, quite different from the black rot that so often affects tomatoes. The fruit becomes soft and collapses without changing color, the skin finally bursts, permitting the contents to flow out, when the skin dries without detaching itself from the plant.

In the second series of experiments plants were grown through three successive generations from seed taken from quite immature fruits. In one instance seeds were gathered in every case from fruits that had not commenced to change color toward ripeness; in the other they were taken from entirely ripe fruits. It is of interest to observe that the effect of the immature seed upon the vigor of the progeny was precisely similar to that of the seeds from the enfeebled plant above noted. The plants grew more and more feeble, until they failed to attain more than a fourth the size of those grown from ripe fruit.

Several varieties of tomatoes now cultivated show evidences in their manner of growth of having been originated by the selection of too immature seed. This course may have been taken to secure earliness. Practical deductions, however, may be left for the cultivator; present interest centers more especially in the fact, illustrated by the experiments, that the hereditary law of the transmission of vigor holds as strongly in the vegetable as in the animal kingdom.