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What Does It Take To Grow Tomatoes?

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The most popular varieties of tomatoes are Assila, VL 642, Ranger F1, Rounder F1 and money maker.

These are popular because they yield well and are resistant to wilts. These can be in most parts of the country, as long as the soils are loam, dark and fertile.

The seeds are packed in various sizes, from sachets of 25-50, 100, 1,000 seeds and more. An acre takes about 10,000 seedlings which cost around sh385,000.

However, if you are not a commercial farmer, you can squeeze seeds from the tomatoes that you use at home, dry the seeds and then plant them.

The entire cost of maintaining an acre of tomatoes from planting to harvesting is about sh5m.

Nursery bed preparation

Potting (putting seeds in pots) is ideal for producing good seedlings from the nursery. Potting materials can be got from many agri-input stores.

Mix one wheelbarrow of soil to another of decomposed manure. Manure can be got from livestock farmers, for example chicken droppings or dung.

Alternatively, you can decompose your kitchen remains, for example, leftover food, for three months in a covered pit to create manure.

Mix 50g of diammonium phosphat in one wheelbarrow of decomposed, fine manure in order to enhance root establishment. You need two bags per acre.

Fill the mixture in pots and put one seed per pot. Seeds should be one inch deep.

Arrange the pots and cover them with grass. Water every morning with each seedling taking at least 30ml.

Remove the grass after a week or upon germination. You can remove it by plucking it out using your hands.

Spray the seedlings with a mixture of 1ml of cypermethrin and 5g of mancozeb with a one-litre sprayer. It protects the seedlings from pests.

Spraying is done once per week in order to protect the seedlings from fungal diseases and pests.

Seedlings are ready for transplanting after three weeks.

Transplanting in the evening is ideal in order to avoid the hot temperatures of the afternoon because they may cause them to wither.

Main garden

Spacing: 90cm by 90cm without staking 75cm by75cm with staking. Staking is when small poles are placed near the plants for them to grow upwards on.

Create furrows in rows were the seedlings are to be transplanted.

Put manure in the furrows. It can be NPK, with a teaspoon in each hole.

Dig holes for the transplants and incorporate DAP in holesat a rate of 5g per hole.

Mix the blend with the soil in the hole. Put one seedling per hole.

Three days from transplanting drench the root zone of the seedlings with Fertiactyl GZ, (100ml of GZ in 20litres).

Make the second application of GZ a week after the first application and top dress with 10g of NPK at four weeks from transplanting.

Buy fertilisers and pesticides from only certified dealers to avoid fakes.

Make the second application after two weeks of planting.

If you have irrigation, water the crops at least three days a week, strictly in the mornings and evenings, to prevent water evaporation.

Diseases

It is advisable to plant varieties such as Assila have 100% resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus or ekigenge.

Common diseases are early and late blight ekibabuko, Powderly and downy mildew as well as bacterial specks.

Control

Avoid the environment that favour fungal diseases such as stagnant water on the leaves, avoiding weeds in the garden which can become alternate hosts and remove diseased leaves that have fallen to the ground.

Conduct regular scouting in the garden to check for signs of disease.

Do preventive sprays using fungicides such as mancozeb and copper based ones.

Preventive sprays should be done at least twice a week in a dry season and thrice in a wet season.

In case of manifestation of disease, curative fungicides should be used for example, ridomil, tatamaster or emexyl they all have the same active ingredient such as mancozeb and metalaxyl.

These can be got from certified dealers around the country.

Curative fungicides can prevent, cure eradicate diseases70g of preventive fungicides in 20 litres of water should be ideal dosage for control of the disease, whereas for curative fungicides 50g in 20 litres of water is ideal.

Costs for these fertilisers ranges from sh15,000 onwards.

Common pests

The common pests are: mites, thrips, aphids and whiteflies which are commonly sucking insects.

They suck sap from of the leaves, causing them to lose the photosynthetic potential because of loss of the green colour.

Some pests like thrips feed on the flowers causing flower abortions.

They also feed on the fruits hence affecting the market quality of the fruits

Control

Regular scouting for pests is a must in order to destroy alternative hosts such as weeds from the field.

Conduct insecticidal sprays in the garden using recommended pesticides which include Durban, larva, tarfgor, cypermethrin, Rocket, Fenenvalate and Malataf.

Alternating these pesticides can be more effective in controlling the pests because sticking to one pesticide can lead to resistance of the pests to the insecticide.

Rocket herbicide should be used more effectively before flowering because when used during the flowering stage, Insecticides should always be used as indicated on the label.

Harvest

Most tomatoes varieties are ready for harvest 75 days from transplanting. An acre can yield around 25 tonnes of tomatoes. At a conservative price of sh1,000 per kilogramme, a farmer earns around sh25m.

The harvest goes on for at least three months depending on how the farm was maintained.

Tomatoes are harvested by picking ripe fruits off the plant. They need to be stored in cool environments for a long shelf life.

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