Tomato Production Manual
Tomato is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes crops such as Irish potato, capsicum, chili and egg plants.
Tomatoes are one of (if not) the most produced and consumed vegetables in Africa and widely grown in both small and large scale. Egypt is the top African producer followed by Nigeria the largest producer in sub-saharan Africa followed by Cameroon, South Africa and Sudan Tomatoes, a high value crop have increasingly become the smallholder farmer’s go to ‘cash crop’ (who can afford its production cost) and with recent developments and implementation of modern farming systems and methods such as greenhouses and hydroponics their production per plant is continuously optimized.
There are several varieties available in the market by seed packaging companies. But with all the available brands, tomatoes are classified as open field tomatoes and greenhouse tomatoes.
Choosing a particular variety to grow can be determined by the fruit type, which is the shape size and color, growth habit and disease tolerance. There’s also an option of the seeds being hybrid or open pollinated Examples of each are as follows
Medium-early maturing tomato grown in the open field. It is suitable for drier or humid areas and tolerant to Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus, Tomato Mosaic Virus, Verticillium, Fusarium wilt and Nematodes
Fruits produced are firm and elongated and have a shelf life of 21 days
Matures in a period of 21/2 months (75 days) after transplanting
Production yield of 30–35tonnes per acre
It’s a hybrid open field variety with vigorous plant growth and uniformly set and firm fruits
Has a tolerance to Bacterial wilt, Bacterial spot, Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt and Nematodes
Matures in 21/2 months or 75 days after transplanting
Potential production yield of 30tonnes per acre
Good shelf life
Hybrid and indeterminate fresh market variety that produces blocky oval red fruits that have a long shelf life with a tolerance to Fusarium, Verticillium Wilt, Alternaria Stem Canker and Nematodes
Common and ideal for greenhouse tomato production
Matures in 21/2 months or 75 days after transplanting
Has a potential production yield: 64tonnes per acre (18 kg per plant for 8 months)
Other varieties are
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Tomatoes grow well within a very large range of between 0m to 2,000 meters above sea level.
Well-distributed adequate rainfall of over 600mm of rainfall annually.
Temperature range of 15°C-17°C during the night and 20°C-25°C during the day.
Tomatoes are most productive in well-drained soils and even if production can be done on a wide range of soil types, sandy or loamy-clay soils are the best.
Best pH range is 6.0–7.5, 6.5 being the optimum pH as lower pH levels can result in problems with regard micronutrient uptake
A soil testing is key to optimum production. The most benefit of a soil test is the ability to understand what is in your soil. A test determines nutrient level, organic matter content and soil PH prior to planting.
A soil test done during the early stages of land preparation will enable the farmer to correctly remedy nutrient deficiencies in time and also plan on fertilizer purchase and application if need be.
Propagation and Land Preparation
Tomatoes can be propagated either in the nursery or by direct seeding. The most preferable method is nursery raising as this increases the germination rate and this can be done directly in the soil or in seed trays. At a rate of 40-75 grams an acre.
Nursery Establishment and management:
The nursery should be sited in a plot that has not been planted with a member of Solanaceae family for the last 3 years and with good drainage
Prepare beds which are 1 meter wide and add well-decomposed compost or farmyard manure
Make rows 15 cm apart and place the seeds in 1cm furrows and cover lightly with soil and mulch
Irrigate the nursery bed regularly
After the seed emerges, remove the mulch and prepare a raised cover
Manage weeds, pests and disease since pests like white flies may transmit viruses to the growing seedling and this will affect the production.
1-2weeks before transplanting, harden the plants by reducing the watering frequency and limited, gradual exposure to direct sunlight.
This is done 30-45 days after sowing. A recommended plant spacing of 75-100cm between rows and 40-60 between plants is enough to give you a total of about 7,000-8,500 plants per acre.
Soil analysis results should be used to determine the nutrient requirements of the soil prior to planting and apply the appropriate planting fertilizer and quantity as recommended by the soil test results.
Irrigate the field well a day before transplanting and carefully pull out the seedlings to avoid damage
Add 8tonnes of manure per acre and 80kg of Triple Super Phosphate (TSP) DAP as recommended by the soil test results.
Field Management Practices
Irrigating: Tomatoes are sensitive to water deficit especially immediately after transplanting and during flowering and fruit development. Plants are also sensitive to water logging and flooded fields should be drained within 1-3 days.
There are several irrigation methods applicable to tomato farming. These are furrow and drip irrigation which are the most common but also there’s overhead irrigation which is discouraged since it encourages diseases such as early blight to form.
Regular timely watering is encouraged for optimum production.
The farm should always be weed free, weeding should be done regularly. When weeding avoid bruising the roots thus appropriate tools should be used. Regular weeding reduces the nutrient competition by the plants and the weeds.
Weeding should be done when the soil is dry since when the soil is wet there’s an increased chance of the spread of bacterial and fungal diseases.
Top dressing: Top-dressing can be done in 2splits. The 1st Top-dressing done at 28 days after transplanting at 40 kg/acre of CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate). The 2nd Top-dressing: 45 days after transplanting at 80 kg/acre of CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate). This should however be done with reference to the soil test as inadequate top-dressing can result in physiological disorders such as blossom-end rot
Staking and Training: Trellising or stacking is key in achieving optimum production; it reduces fruit-soil contact and enables proper crop management practices such as pruning, harvesting and application of foliar fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
Pruning: this is a practice that involves the removal of excess and disease infected leaves, suckers, extra flowers and fruits to direct all food produced to fruit development.
Pest and Diseases control
Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites are tiny and oval in shape, appear reddish or greenish with 8 legs
Infested leaves show white to yellow speckling, later turn pale or bronzed
High infestation results in serious drying and defoliation which leads to smaller and lighter fruits. The most viable method of control is by use of appropriate pesticides but since they quickly develop resistance, avoid routine spraying and use miticides (pesticides) with different chemical compositions.
Caterpillars feed on flowers and green fruits causing flower abortion and sunken necrotic spots, respectively. The feeding holes made by the caterpillar serve as entry point for bacteria and fungi which may lead to rotting of fruits
There are several methods of control like; tilling and ploughing of the old tomato field to expose the pupa to desiccation and natural enemies. Another method is planting of trap crops such as maize and African marigold which attract the pest before it attacks tomatoes (Need to synchronize planting of both maize and tomatoes so that they flower at same time). Use of appropriate pesticides,
White fly (Tobacco white fly)
Whiteflies cluster on the underside of upper leaves from which they suck sap and remove nutrients which cause yellowing of infested leaves. The larvae secrete honey dew which supports growth of black sooty mold. They transmit viral diseases, especially Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus.
There are several methods of control like; keeping the tomato fields weed-free, using yellow sticky traps to monitor their population levels, and covering the tomato seedling nurseries with nylon nets or insect proof nets to protect seedlings from Whitefly infestations. Use of insecticides is also a control method.
This pest’s characterized by the caterpillar burrowing in the middle of the leaf tissue, unlike other Leaf miners, it feeds indiscriminately and from a distance, the leaves appear as if they are “burning”.
One of the most distinctive symptoms are the blotch-shaped mines in the leaves the boring of the fruits leaves symptomatic tiny holes
Also, the burrows on stems causing breakages and can lead to 100% crop loss
Methods of control available are; early control is important before the pest pressure builds up which can clear a whole field.
Practicing proper cultural farming practices like field hygiene, crop rotation
Carry out regular scouting/monitoring of pest population and the use of pheromone traps to attract male insects for both monitoring/surveillance and pest control like mating disruption and mass trapping ‘lure and kill’ method, and the Use of appropriate and recommended pesticides
If not controlled at early stages, these diseases cause significant yield losses.
It is a fungal infection that is prevalent in cool and humid conditions and affects both the leaves and fruits. Infection is characterized by Irregular greenish-black water soaked patches on the leaves and the spots on the leaves later turn brown. The attacked leaves wither but remain attached to the stem
Another sign is formation of water soaked brown streaks on stem and grey water soaked spots on fruits – usually on the upper-side of the fruit.
It can be controlled by practicing crop rotation, maintaining good field hygiene, proper pruning and stacking to improve air circulation and reduce moisture build-up, and use of appropriate fungicides.
This disease is also caused by a fungus which is seed borne and is prevalent in warm rainy weather. It is characterized by the formation of brown circular spots with dark concentric rings on the leaves which then turn yellow and dry after formation of a few spots. On the fruits, large sunken areas with dark concentric rings that appear velvet.
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It can be controlled by use of certified seeds, avoidance of overhead irrigation, practicing the recommended spacing and stress-free (regular and timely watering) use of appropriate fungicides
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This is a bacterial infection that is soil-borne and is a result of run-off water and/or infected soil.
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Its symptoms include the rapid wilting and death of entire plant without yellowing or spotting of leaves. When squeezed, the stem of an infected plant oozes out a greyish slimy liquid.
Effective control is by practicing crop rotation, removal of wilted plants and surrounding soil from the field and destroy them (burn), solarizing the nursery beds and spot treatment with lime/ash or sodium hypochlorite (jik) .
Proper agronomic practices such as correct nutrition and spacing will prevent fast spread of the disease in the farm.
Tomatoes mature within 80 – 120 days after transplanting depending on the variety and environmental conditions. And can be harvested at different stages depending on the market requirement and expected shelf life.
- Mature-Green Stage: where the fruit is green but internal gel is well developed
- Breaker/turning Stage: up to 30 % of fruit surface has definite color break from green to yellow
- Pink/Light Red Stage: 30 – 90 % fruit surface has pink/red color
- Red/Ripe Stage: over 90 % fruit surface has changed to red color
Harvested fruits should be stored in a cool, shaded, and ventilated area in order to minimize heat gain which in turn quickens the ripening of a fruit.
Packaging is usually done in wooden or plastic crates after grading is done.