Tomato cultivation means growing seeds for the production of tomato fruit. Tomato is a warm season crop that thrives at an average monthly temperature of 21 to 23 degrees Celsius. Tomato farmers can make millions if they do it right. They can be grown in gardens, pots, outdoors, in containers, greenhouses, etc. The average harvest time after sowing is from 60 to more than 80 days, depending on the variety.
In the past, tomato cultivation was mainly practiced in the northern part of Nigeria. But now people can grow them in the southern parts as well. This is made possible by irrigation systems, greenhouse tomato cultivation and special agronomic practices.
TYPES OF TOMATO
There are two types of tomatoes. You may have seen on the packaging of tomato seeds that they are labeled either determinate or indeterminate.
1. Determinate tomatoes
Determinate simply means that the growth and size are genetically determined to mature to a certain stage. These tomato varieties bear ripe, abundant fruit, but only for a relatively short period of time. They do not require a stake or cage. They are well suited for containers and small backyards. They are suitable for pasta tomatoes, canning and preparation of sauces.
2. Indeterminate tomatoes
Indeterminate means that the growth of these tomatoes is unlimited unless you stop it. They are also called “climbing” varieties. They have more leaves, so their production is more evenly distributed throughout the season. Indeterminate tomatoes need a stake and are ideal for large gardens.
How to start a successful tomato framing business in Nigeria
1. Procuring Seeds
One of your most important decisions to make millions starts with choosing the right seeds to grow. Below are some of the varieties you can choose from: Platinum F1, Maxim F1, Cobra 26 F1, Rio-Grande, etc., and you can count on great production. Many tomato growers still practice the crude methods of seed selection, which are outdated. This is one of the reasons why the average yield per hectare in Nigeria is less than 3 tons.
2. Preparation of the nursery
The first step in planting tomatoes is to prepare the nursery so that the tomato seeds can germinate. You can either grow the tomato seeds on beds in the garden or plant them indoors. When the seeds begin to germinate and form leaves and roots, you can transplant them to areas suitable for the growth and production of tomatoes.
3. Sowing and growing in the nursery
We recommend that you start growing with seedling tray and coconut palm. However, if you prefer soil, you should apply pesticides 5-6 days before sowing. This will minimize the activities of disease-causing organisms such as nematodes, fungi, bacteria and even insects. If present, weeding should be done. Water vigorously one day before transplanting to harden off the seedlings.
4. Site selection and soil preparation
Choose a sunny spot for your tomatoes because the warmer the soil, the faster the tomatoes will grow. Tomatoes should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Tomatoes can grow in all soils, from light to heavy. Tomatoes do best in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is acidic, you will need to lime it. The soil should be well-drained and not soggy. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 20 cm. Finally, it’s time to transplant the tomato seedlings.
Before transplanting, apply manure and fertilizer and leave them for about 20 days. The fertilizer is needed before planting to improve soil organic carbon content, microorganisms, porosity, texture and structure, soil pH, bulk density and so on. Water the soil and keep it moist enough to accommodate the seedlings.
Plants older than 24 days are suitable for transplanting. When you notice that your tomato seedlings are about 8 to 10 inches tall, they are ready for transplanting. Be sure to plant within an hour of taking them from the nursery. It is advisable to dip the roots of the seedlings in pesticides to prevent insect infestation and fungal diseases. Plant early in the morning and in the evening. Water the plants after transplanting to protect them from water stress.
6. Moisturize your tomatoes
Water is crucial in tomato growing, so access to water is necessary. Your growing area must have a steady source of water. So it’s good to dig a well, drill a borehole, or store rainwater by creating a mini-reservoir to collect water. Relying on rainwater to grow tomatoes is long outdated. Smart growers now grow tomatoes year-round with a drip irrigation system. Many are unaware that tomatoes do not like wet leaves. That’s why drip irrigation is the best method for watering tomatoes. Water on tomato leaves encourages leaf infections that can damage the plants. Drip irrigation ensures that the roots of the plants receive sufficient water. This irrigation system saves up to 80% water compared to other irrigation methods. You can easily deliver fertilizer and chemicals to the plants.
The fertilizer injector (venturi) mixes fertilizer in water and passes it through the drip irrigation system.
7. Protect your plants and weed them
It is very important to protect your plants from diseases such as fusarium, bacterial wilt, septoria leaf spot disease, bacterial blight, collar rot, root rot, etc. Insects such as leafhoppers, thrips, leaf miners, etc. Weeding should be done as needed and on a regular basis.
8. Staking for tomatoes
There are two types of staking in tomato cultivation. Single plant staking and multiple plant staking. In single plant staking, each plant receives a stalk. This is physically demanding and expensive. Multiple staking is done every 5 feet along the rows. The stems of the tomato plants are tied to the stake to support them. To make your plants more productive and healthy, adjust or help the tomato plants/vines to grow on the staking material and then cut them back properly. When staking tomatoes, tie the plants directly above an inflorescence and not directly below it.
9. Fertilizer application
Avoid fast-release fertilizers and fertilizers with high nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen results in lush foliage but few flowers and little or no fruit. Apply biostimulants, boron and calcium fertilizers to plants to obtain high- quality tomato fruit. Bone meal based fertilizers are used for good root development as they are rich in phosphorus. Note that fertilizer application should be done according to the result of your soil test. You can apply potassium sulfate, monoammonium phosphate, calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, chelates, foliar fertilizers and so on.
10. Harvest tomatoes
When the tomato fruits are ripe, you can twist them off the petioles of the bunch. You can use scissors to cut off a small part of the stem that is attached to the tomato fruit. Some people advise harvesting the fruit before it is fully ripe. This will prevent cracking, the spread of fungal diseases and premature rotting. Store the harvested fruits in plastic boxes or baskets under shade and sort them.
11. Pest and disease control
You should know that tomatoes can be susceptible to pests. They need to be monitored closely on a daily basis. Make it a point to look under leaves, fruit and near the soil. Pick insects by hand and apply insecticidal soap to insects as needed. Be sure to choose disease-resistant tomato varieties. Plant in well-drained soil. Water regularly, but do not underwater or overwater. Remove infested plants completely.
Because of the nature of tomatoes, marketing should be done much earlier before harvest. Find out who or where you need to deliver them to. Visit restaurants, malls, or the processing plant to sell large quantities so you do not lose out. Find out the average price in the market to set your own price.
13. How to store tomatoes
It is clear that storing tomatoes ensures a continuous supply during the season. It is not advisable to store freshly harvested tomatoes in the refrigerator. The texture and flavor may be affected. The moisture content of tomatoes is high, so it can be difficult to store them for long periods, especially at room temperature. Store ripe tomatoes at temperatures of about 10-15°C and 85-95% relative humidity. At these temperatures, ripening and chilling damage will be minimized. However, here in Nigeria and other tropical countries, it is almost impossible to achieve these conditions.
ADVANTAGES OF CONSUMING TOMATOES;
a. It has antioxidant properties that improve human vision.
b. The fiber content helps in the digestion of food.
c. Due to its water content, it helps prevent constipation.
d. The lycopene in tomato protects the body from heart attack and prevents prostate cancer.
e. Tomatoes are rich in carotene, vitamin C and antioxidants that destroy free radicals in our body.
Tomato is an important seasoning. It is often consumed in fresh form or processed in dried form, puree, paste, sauce, canned or whole skin. It can be grown anywhere in the country. Tomatoes provide the desired nutrients needed for a balanced diet with relatively few calories. These include vitamin C and important minerals (such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium and zinc). Due to the nature of tomatoes should be marketed much earlier before harvest.
FAQ ON TOMATO GROWING
a. Where can I get high quality tomato seed?
You can get high quality and affordable seeds from farmsquare.ng.
b. How long does it take for tomatoes to ripen?
It takes an average of 60 to 70 days to harvest for early season tomatoes and up to 80 or more days for mid and late season tomatoes.
c. What is the best tomato fertilizer?
It is good to apply fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio, such as 15:15:15 or 10-10-10, or fertilizer with more phosphorus followed by nitrogen, such as 2-3-1.
d. How many tomatoes can one plant produce?
Depending on the size of the tomato, a single plant can bear about 30 to 90 fruits.
e. Do the tomatoes die after fruiting?
The indeterminate type of tomatoes do not die after fruiting. But the determinate ones really don’t grow anymore after reaching a certain height and fruiting.