Tomato cultivation has been long overlooked by many people who decide to venture into lucrative agriculture as beginners. This somewhat ignored vegetable fruit has remained a needed ingredient for the preparation of varieties of meals in USA,UK and across the globe. This means that an average person cannot consciously go a day without eating a yummy meal prepared with tomatoes.
Despite its ignored state by new farmers, tomato is currently grown by over 200,000 farmers in USA whom collectively grow over 2.5 million metric tons of tomatoes each year. Its potential is even higher in African continents like Nigeria; ac country with a population of 170 million, predicted to exceed 400 million by the year 2050. You can begin farming tomatoes for profit today.
The tomato is a warm season crop that requires cool and warm climate to grow well. It can be consumed raw and cooked as a fruit or vegetable.
Two parts of Tomato farming you can play a part in
Like any other agricultural business idea, the tomato consists of parts that any beginner or existing farmer can play a role in. Two parts of tomato cultivation is discussed below:
Tomato production: Production of tomatoes involves the use of a farm land to grow tomato crops. It usually involves tomato seeds, one, two or more irrigation channel, nurseries for tomato, sufficient fertilizer, and a good knowledge of the pros and cons of growing a tomato plantation.
It’s not really necessary that you start out on a standard farmland or try out tomato growing secrets. With the right conditions, soil and practice, tomato crops can grow even in your backyard. You can first test run the business by growing the crop in your backyard for a specified period of time and then move to setup a standard tomato farm, running a large scale tomato farm as your confidence increases.
Tomato processing: Farmers sell their grown and harvested tomatoes to consumers; some buyers take the purchased crop further, by creating by products from their crop.
Tomato processing mainly involves converting the farm product into other forms. E.g. tomato paste, Ketchup. Etc.
How to Setup a Tomato Farm
To setup your tomato farm, you will need resources and conditions like a farmland, selection of tomato seeds, a good irrigation system, control of pest and diseases, fertilizer.
- A Farmland
A wide area where you can grow your own crops is needed. It doesn’t matter the location of your farm, a land treated specifically to grow your tomato crops is the first and most important step.
Tomato grows well in most mineral soils but grows best at deep, well drained sandy loam upper loams. The upper layer of the selected soil should be porous with little sand and good clay in the subsoil. Also, soil depth of 15 to 20cm helps your crops grow healthy. Performing deep tillage will allow adequate root penetration in soils that contain heavy clay content- this action boosts production in these soil types.
The tomato is a moderately tolerant crop to a wide PH range. Although tomato plants will perform better in acidic soils with enough supply of nutrients, a pH of 5.5-6.8 is usually recommended. Why? Because the tomato plant is moderately tolerant to acid soils. To get maximum yield, choose soils with proper water holding capacity, aeration-free from salts.
Avoid soils that are extremely high in organic matter. Why? Because the high moisture content of the soil makes it loose the essential nutrients for your plants to grow but the addition of organic materials to mineral soils will increase production.
Selection of Seeds for Tomato Cultivation
Planting the right variety of tomato seeds is a game changer to the success of your tomato farm. Whether it’s roma tomatoes (the most common in Nigeria and other African countries), beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sauce tomatoes or even more, buying and planting the right breed of this crop is important to your farm’s success.
After seed production, you should discard broken or diseased seeds. Ensure the seeds for sowing should be free from any infectious matter. Some of the factors considered during seed selection are:
- Early germination
- Bold germination
- Uniform in shape and size
Also, Hybrid seeds from F1 generation are very lucrative for commercial sowing as it gives early and high yield (healthy, fruity, and resistant to environmental conditions fruits).
Tomato seeds are generally planted indoors first then transferred to beds when they have established root system and a few leaves. This is crucial because these seeds need a consistent temperature of at least 60 degrees and probably 80 degrees to germinate.
|Temperature||Minimum Requirement(11)||Suitable tomato(16-29)||Cultivation maximum(24)|
|Red color development||10||20-24||30|
Time of Planting for Tomato Cultivation
- Tomato can be grown in any season. It can be found in many places in the world.
- It is grown more in the northern part of the country than any other place.
- In the southern where there is no danger of frost, the first planting is usually done between December –January, second is June-July, third in September-October depending on the irrigation facilities available.
- Tomato Seeds and Sowing
The tomato seed is mainly cultivated by transplanting seedlings on furrows and ridges. Transplanting seedlings are more difficult during exposure to open weather or drought. A seed rate of 400 to 500g/hole is required.
Seeds are then treated with Thiram at 5g/kg of seed to keep seed away from diseases. The treatment of seeds with Binaphthoxyactic acid (BNDA) at 25 and 50ppm, chlorophenoxy acetic at 10 and 20ppm and gibberlic acid (GA3) at 5-20 ppm led to increase growth and produce of tomato.
Seeds are at times sown in June July for autumn winter crop and for spring summer crop seeds are sown in November. The required spacing for autumn winter crop is 75x60cm and for spring summer crop is 75x45cm.
- A good irrigation system
Your seeds will need to be grown in a highly controlled watered environment. Dry lands mostly never grow crops, and with various factors like timing, environment, genetics, water supply, and more to be considered, a good irrigation system must be put in place to ensure your tomato crop stay healthy. But be careful not to over wet your crops lest the farmland become marshy and your crops begin dying.
Not every farmland is suitable to grow tomato crops. For some, you need to repeatedly fertilize the soil to achieve maximum growth using the right fertilizer on your farmlands to aid your tomato. Crop growth is important to the crops full and healthy maturity.
Fruit production and quality solely depend on nutrient availability and fertilizer application. Adequate fertilizers are applied per requirement to balance the soil. The nitrogen in adequate quantity boosts fruit quality, increases fruit size, color and taste. It also helps in increasing the desire able acidic flavor.
Adequate amount of potassium is also needed for growth, yield and quality. Mono Ammonium phosphate (MAP) may be used as a starter fertilizer to supply adequate phosphorous during germination and seedling stages. The availability of calcium is also a very important factor to control soil pH and affects nutrient availability. Sandy soils will normally require a higher rate of fertilizer because of its increased leaching of essential nutrients. The seedlings are sprayed with a starter solution of micronutrients.
Before planting, farm yard manure at 50 ton per hectares should be applied. Generally tomato requires 120kg Nitrogen (N), 50kg Phosphorous (P25), and 50kg Potash (k20). To be on a safe side, give nitrogen in split doses. Half nitrogen and full P25 should be given at the same time of transplanting and remaining nitrogen is given after 30 days and 60 days of transplanting.
Soil and tissue analyses should be carried out throughout the growing and production season to ensure that essential nutrients are in their proper amount and ratios. On fourth of nitrogen and half of potash may be applied 20-30 days after planting. The remaining quantity may be applied two months after planting.
Transplanting in Tomato Cultivation
- The transplanting of tomato seedlings is done in small flat beds or in shallow furrows depending on the availability of irrigation.
- It is transplanted on ridges in heavy soil as this is disadvantageous during the rainy season.
- For indeterminate varieties/hybrids, the seedlings have to be staked using bamboo sticks of two meter length or planted in a broad ridge of 90cm width and 15cm height.
Nursery Preparation and Care
- The best ideal seed bed should be 60cm width, 5-6cm long and 20-25cm high. Stubbles and clods should be removed from the seed bed. Add sieved FYM and fine sand on the seed bed.
- Then drench the bed with Dithane or Fytolon M-45 at 2-2.5kg/lit of water. Draw line 10-25cm apart throughout the length of the seedbed. Sow the seeds thinly spaced in lines, press gently, cover with the smooth sieved sand and then cover the bed with straw.
- With a rose can, irrigate the bed twice a day until you notice the seeds germinate. Take off the straw after the seeds germinate. Apply a little thimet at 4-5 leaf stage. Spray the seedlings with Metasystox/thiodan at 2-2.5ml/lit water and Dithane M-45 at 2-2.5 lit/g water.
The Primary Advantage of Tomato farming
The insatiable demand for countries for tomato products is the key advantage of venturing into tomato cultivation. With the demand far exceeding the available supply coupled with imported supplements, tomato cultivation done on a large scale would not only make profitable returns for the farmer, but would also guarantee their crops are sold out quickly.
Risks Involved in Tomato Cultivation
- Tomatoes cannot withstand high humid and frost.
- The plant is highly affected by adverse climatic conditions
- Water stress and long dry period could cause cracking of fruits
- Bright sunshine at the time of fruit set helps to develop and ripen fruits.
- Birds, rodents, pests and insects attacks could lead to terrible losses.
The startup cost of running a large scale tomato farm, or tomato processing plant is usually exceedingly high. Not treating such an investment with care could not only lead to a heavy loss, but could destroy an individual’s financial growth all together.
Weed Control in Tomato Cultivation
- Mulching with black polythene, straw and many other materials has shown benefits in moisture concentration and weed and diseases control.
- You should light hoe during the first 4 weeks in the field- this encourages removal of weeds and growth of crops in the field.
Tomato Cultivation is a Profitable agric business opportunity done commercially. Sadly, there is no such thing as Tomato growing secrets. While many risks may haunt the venture, the advantages far outweigh the risks.