TOMATOES FARMING 101
TOMATOES FARMING 101
A brief description of tomato
One of the most popular vegetables globally is the tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. About 105 million tonnes of fresh tomatoes were produced globally in 2001 from an estimated 3.9 million hectares. Because it is a crop with a short growing season and a high yield, it is commercially desirable, and the area under cultivation is growing every day. The Solanaceae family includes tomato.
A balanced, nutritious diet includes tomatoes. They are abundant in carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vital amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and vitamins. The tomato is a rich source of iron, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C. Fresh tomato fruits are used in salads, and cooked tomatoes are used in sauces, soups, and dishes with meat or fish. They are capable of being turned into purées, juices, and ketchup. The processed tomato industry includes dried and canned tomatoes.
Three different types of tomato plants can be distinguished:
1: tall or indeterminate type
2: semi-bush or semi-indeterminate type
3: bush or determinate type
The tall and bush types are entirely different kinds of crops.
The best option for a lengthy harvest season is the tall variety. After blossoming, they carry on growing. Indeterminate is the name of this trait. Diseases and insect infestations will, however, halt growth in tropical environments. Usually, there is more foliage on the plants. The crop will be cooler as a result, and the fruits will be shaded by the leaves. The fruits ripen more slowly because they are covered, protecting them from sun harm. The flavour of the fruits, especially their sweetness, are enhanced by slower ripening and a high leaf-to-fruit ratio. The tall varieties require stakes, cages, or trellises.
Short types typically don’t require staking and can support themselves. But in cases of extreme weather, such typhoons, staking might be advised. After flowering, certain varieties stop growing. They are preferred for commercial cultivation since they require less manpower. Compared to indeterminate varieties, they have a very concentrated fruit set that ripens in just two to three weeks.
Advantages of tomato:
(1) relatively short duration vegetable crop
(2) short or long production period
(3) uncovered field crop and protected cultivation
(4) easily adapts to various cropping systems
(5) high economic value
(6) high micronutrient content
(7) processed, dried, and canned fruits
Requirements for successful cultivation
Climate and soil
Temperature and light
For a high production and top quality, tomatoes need a rather chilly, dry climate. To a wide range of environmental circumstances, nonetheless, from temperate to hot and humid tropical, it is adaptable. Most kinds do best at temperatures between 21 and 24 °C. Although the plants can withstand a variety of temperatures, their tissues are harmed below 10 °C and above 38 °C.
Water and humidity
To test whether the local water sources are enough for growing tomatoes, apply a straightforward rule of thumb. Tomatoes can be grown if there are herbaceous plants (plants with lots of little leaves) present in the surrounding landscape. Rainfall should be expected for at least three months. Long dry spells and water stress will cause the fruits to split and the buds and flowers to fall off. However, if the humidity is too high and the rain is too heavy. Mould growth will accelerate, and the fruit will spoil. Tomato ripening will be slowed down by cloudy sky. However, there are adaptable cultivars available. Special tomato varieties are available from seed firms for hot, humid areas.
The majority of mineral soils with enough water holding capacity, aeration, and salt content support the growth of tomato plants. It favours sandy loam soils that are deep and well drained. Permeability is required for the top layer. To cultivate a robust crop, you need soil that is between 15 and 20 centimetres deep. Deep ploughing promotes improved root development in hard clay soils.
Tomatoes can tolerate a wide range of pHs (amount of acidity), but they thrive in soils with a pH between 5.5 and b.o. and good nutrient availability. organic material is added is generally favourable for healthy growth. Due to their great propensity to retain water and nutrient deficits, peat soils, which have a very high organic matter concentration, are less appropriate.
Choice of varieties
F1 hybrids of tomatoes have been created by breeding companies. These sprout from seeds that were created through carefully timed hand pollination of parent lines that were both male and female. High yield, disease resistance, and other plant and fruit traits are combined in these hybrids. More than 70% of farmers in Asia employ hybrids.
When using hybrids, fresh seeds must to be bought each year. Although it may be more expensive, the tomato plants require less pesticide application due to the hybrids’ resistance to illnesses. Additionally, because of the larger yields, there are more opportunities to commercialise tomatoes.
Resistant cultivars have a seed-borne resistance that is built-in. When a plant has a certain disease resistance trait, it becomes extremely difficult or impossible for that plant to contract that specific illness. Different plant features may lead to resistance. It is possible to cover leaves in a dense layer of hairs to discourage some insects from perching there. specific insects may not be drawn to specific colours. These qualities are apparent. The majority of traits that influence microbial and viral resistance are invisible. Although you can purchase seed from plants that are resistant to one or more illnesses, there are no varieties available on the market that are immune to all current diseases and pests.
Variety of Tomatoes to Plant from Tomato Seeds
There are numerous types of tomato seeds. Tomato seeds with open pollination and hybrid varieties are both available. Hybrid seeds not only produce more than open pollinated seeds, but they are also resistant to particular diseases and pests. Saving hybrid seed for later planting is not advised.
Among other hybrid tomato varieties, you can plant seeds such as
Open-pollinated seeds can be saved and planted once more. Two open-pollinated tomato seeds that can be sown are Roma VF and UC82B.
Preparation and planting
Land preparation for a new crop requires ploughing (or digging). The structure and water-holding capacity are both improved. Ploughing also improves water conservation in locations where water is a scarce resource.
The soil structure and water-holding capacity are improved by fallowing the field after the previous crop has been harvested. By exposing the soil to the scorching sun, it also helps to decrease pests and diseases that are transmitted through the soil. An impermeable nard subsoilaver must be broken with deep bloughing (olougning pan). Get rid of the weeds and make the land level. It promotes root expansion as well. In order to level the soil, it is frequently required to harrow twice, removing crop leftovers and breaking up clods.
tomato cultivation in raised beds.
Tomatoes are normally transplanted because much better results are gained when seedlings are raised in a nursery. Two methods of raising seedling in nurseries can be used:
sowing in seedbed
sowing in seedling tray (Simple Tech and well adopted by adopted by farmers)
The seedling should be planted in the field 21 days after it was sown. Seedlings should be hardened off a week prior to transplanting by reducing the amount of water applied, but 12–14 hours prior to removal from the seedbed, they should receive another thorough watering to prevent excessive root damage. For transplanting, seedlinas between 15 and 25 cm tall with three or five true leaves work best. To lessen transplant shock, transplanting should be done at night or on an overcast day.After transplanting the plants, water them right away. Keep a sizable clump of soil clinging to the roots when removing the seedlings to avoid damaging them. The distance between plants and rows is determined by the cultivar growth behaviour, the kind of soil, the cropping strategy, and whether the plants will be staked or permitted to grow naturally. The standard distance is 75 cm between rows and 50 cm between plants.
Application of Fertilizers in Tomato Farming
Soil analysis or test is the first step before you add any fertilizer to your farmland. Please ensure that you use a reputable laboratory for your soil analysis. Depending on the result of your soil analysis, 2-5 tonnes of manure should be applied to a hectare of your tomato farmland. Chicken manure is very rich in nutrients, whilst it can help in making your soil richer in nutrients, if over-applied, it can be detrimental to your tomato plants. Manure improves the water and nutrients retention rates of soil. I have seen a tomato farmer who increased his yield by 70% because he used chicken manure.
When growing tomatoes, a fertiliser with a higher phosphorus content should be used prior to planting. Plant roots are constructed with the aid of phosphorus. Larger, more developed roots allow plants to draw more water and nutrients from the soil, increasing output. There are several fertilisers that can be used, including single super phosphate (ssp), diammonium phosphate (DAP), potassium sulphate, dolomite, calmag fertiliser, and ammonium nitrate. Additionally, simple NPK fertilisers can be used. Base dressing application of fertiliser is crucial during the pre-planting phase.
Fertilisers with a high nitrogen value should be used while the tomato plants are in the vegetative stage and have many leaves. Urea, NPK 20:10:10, and nitrate fertilisers are a few examples of high nitrogenous fertilisers. The fertilisers increase the size of the leaves. Large leaves let the plant better utilise sunlight and enhance photosynthesis. At the vegetative stage, calcium fertilisers such calcium nitrate should also be applied. It is well recognised that calcium aids plants in disease prevention. Additionally, it enhances fruit and flowering.
Fertilisers with high potassium and calcium concentrations should be used since tomato plants are in the flowering and fruiting stages. Farmers can simply apply fertilisers thanks to drip irrigation. Through injectors or dosing pumps, fertilisers can be dissolved in water and delivered to the roots of plants. This method is known as fertigation. Fertilisers are applied in modest amounts daily or every two weeks during fertigation.
Much calcium is required by tomato plants. The fruits are malformed when tomato plants do not receive enough calcium; this condition is known as blossom end rots. In order to cope with stress and avoid sickness, calcium is crucial. Additionally, calcium aids plants in utilising other nutrients.
Calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, and other nitrates
Weed Control and Pruning in Tomato Farming
Weeding can be done manually or mechanically, depending on the knowledge and resources the tomato grower has. Using cutlasses and hoes, weeding is done by hand.
For weeding, there are machines that can be employed. These tools help speed up the process and reduce labour costs. The rucksack petrol driven weeder, the petrol powered push type weeder, and tractors are some examples of weeders. To effectively weed tomato plants, weeding tools can be mounted to tractors.
A burner can be used to weed as well. Unwanted plants can be eliminated on farms using a device that emits blue flame.Tomato plants are susceptible to weed danger. They may include illnesses and pests that can spread to tomato plants. As weeds share water and nutrients with the primary crop, tomatoes, their yield can be reduced by weeds by up to 98%.
Similar to peppers and some other crops, tomato plants can focus all of their resources and energy on the fruits by having their stems and leaves pruned. This increases yield while growing tomatoes. Only seasoned tomato farmers should prune their plants.
Pest Control in Tomato Farming
If pests are not prevented or controlled, tomato growers risk receiving little to no produce from their plants and fruits. One of the difficulties of growing tomatoes in Nigeria is dealing with pests and diseases.
In Nigeria, flies, white flies, thrips, insects, aphids, pod borers, worms, and grubs are some of the pests that attack tomato plants.
For instance, cut worms, which are frequently found in chicken manure, can cause significant harm to tomato plants if manure is not cleaned before application.
In Nigerian soils, several pests like nematodes and root grubs are frequent. These pests can cause harm to crops, thus nematodes like vellum and wormforce can be used to prevent or manage them.
Chemical, organic, and biological insecticides can all be used to manage pests. Chemical pesticides are made-with-chemicals insecticides, acaricides, nematicides, and fungicides. These chemical insecticides can effectively prevent and manage pests in Nigerian tomato farming.
Biologically similar beneficial bacteria are used in biopesticides to suffocate, prevent, and control pests in agriculture. For pest prevention and control in tomato production, certain helpful bacteria and fungicides can be utilised.
Neem oil is a natural fungicide and insecticide that can be used in farming to prevent and manage pests. Neem oil should be diluted in water with a suitable surfactant before applying to plants.
Disease Control in Tomato Farming
From what I have observed over a period of 10 years in tomato farming in Nigeria, mites attack, bacteria wilt, mosaic viral infection and blight diseases are the commonest diseases of tomato plants. The first guard against diseases in tomato farming is to buy treated seeds from credible suppliers.The second step is to use a sterile media in seedlings trays to raise your tomato seedlings. Before the tomato seedlings are transplanted, the field should be clean and cleared of left over plants and debris. The field should be treated with pesticides so that all pests and diseases are cleared. Pesticides that can be used on the soil before transplanting include nematicides, insecticides and fungicides. Organic disease prevention and control and biological can also be used.
Some of the diseases that affect tomato include:
- Bacterial Wilt
- Blossom End Rot
- Early Blight
- Late Blight
- Fusarium Wilt
- Verticilium Wilt
- Powdery Mildew
- Tomato Yellow Leaf Curly Disease
In tomato farming, depending on the variety of tomato grown, harvesting normally starts 55–70 days following transplanting. Compared to tomato types with delicate skin, certain tomato varieties have thick fruits that survive longer. A farmer is encouraged to have a method for keeping his tomato fruits after harvest.Typically, tomatoes are picked when they are red or yellow and turning red. Some tomato growers choose to harvest their tomatoes while they are still green; I do not recommend this because it could be challenging to convert the green tomatoes red. People won’t purchase green tomatoes.
If you have the resources, you can gather tomato fruits on your farm and turn them into paste and puree. Additionally, tomatoes can be picked, sun-dried, and ground into powder.
Post-Harvest and Marketing
Sorting, packaging, and storing of the harvested tomato fruits are post-harvest tasks in tomato cultivation.
Fresh tomatoes can be sold or processed into various items. In Nigeria, open marketplaces and more organised markets like hotels and supermarkets are where fresh tomatoes are typically sold.