Tomato cultivation is one of the most profitable agriculture business. Cultivating tomato is an excellent option for those looking to harvest a commercially important crop four times a year. Tomato farming is possible both in traditional farming and greenhouse farming. Discover how to start a tomato plantation and grow tomatoes.

Tomato is found in every kitchen worldwide in different forms irrespective of the cuisine. It is used in diverse ways in the form of salads, juices, sauces, ingredient for various culinary preparations, etc. Interestingly, tomato is not a vegetable that we normally refer to- it is a berry-type fruit grown worldwide. It is the largest vegetable crop grown in the world after potato and sweet potato. China ranks number one as the largest producer of tomatoes followed by India. Andhra Pradesh is the largest tomato producing state in India.

Tomato Plant Information

Botanically called Solanum licopersicum, tomato plants are actually vines. If given adequate support they can grow up to 6 feet tall in traditional farming. Although they are perennials, when reared in greenhouses they can live up to 3 years. The vines are covered with short hairs all over and the flowers are yellow in color.

Fruit Vs. Vegetable Debate

Tomato, botanically speaking is a berry but with much lower sugar content than other fruits. Hence, it is not a ‘sweet’ fruit. There are a lot of other ‘fruit vegetables’ like avocado, eggplants, cucumbers, etc. that are botanically fruits but cooked like vegetables.

This became a raging debate in 1887 when the US Tariff imposed duty on vegetables but not on fruits. This is when the status of tomato gained importance. Finally, in 1893, the US Supreme Court classified tomato as a vegetable and put this controversy at rest. This classification was based on its use as a vegetable and not botanically being a fruit.

Ideal Conditions for Tomato Cultivation

A warm but cool climate is needed for tomato. It cannot withstand frost. However, it cannot tolerate high light intensity as well since it affects the fruit pigmentation.

Tomato cultivation
Tomato cultivation in India

Climate for Tomato Farming

Being a warm season crop, tomato crop requires an ideal temperature of 21⁰ to 23⁰C. Tomatoes are highly sensitive to climatic changes. For ideal growth and yield, tomatoes need a diverse set of climatic conditions at every stage of growth such as seed germination, flowering, fruiting, etc. Tomato farming needs a warm and cool climate with medium amount of sunlight. A high amount of humidity and frost cannot be tolerated. Similarly, both heavy rainfall and a prolonged dry spell affect the growth of tomato plants.

Soil for Tomato cultivation

Although tomato needs a diverse set of climate for its growth, it can grow on all types of soils from light sandy soil to a heavy clayey soil. A well-drained soil with a depth of 15-20 cm is ideal for yielding a healthy crop. However, for a heavy yield, farmers cultivate tomatoes on silt-loam soils. Unlike many other crops, soil with high organic content is not recommended. This is because soil with high organic content is naturally high in moisture which cannot be tolerated by tomato crops. If the soil is rich in mineral content, then adding organic content will help increase the yield.

pH for Tomato Farming

Soil pH falling in the range of 6.0 to 7.0 is preferred. A slight liming along with adequate nutrient supply can help tomato crops grow better in acidic soil.

Water Requirement in Tomato Plantation

Tomatoes are sensitive to both excess water as well as very little water. A major challenge in tomato cultivation is maintain an even moisture supply. During summer it is necessary to irrigate the crop once a week while irrigating it once in every two weeks is sufficient. Care should be taken to prevent any drought period after a heavy watering dose. It may affect the crop produce. In addition, drought followed by an abrupt watering during the fruiting phase would cause cracking in tomatoes.

Crop Rotation with Tomato Crop

Tomato belongs to Solanaceae family. Hence it cannot be rotated with other crops belonging to the same family like potato, tobacco, bell-pepper, etc. It must be rotated with crops that fulfill the nitrogen content of the soil. Leguminous crops are the most recommended for this purpose. Tomato crops are hence rotated with leguminous crops like beans, pulses, etc.

Tomato Varieties in India

Seeds of tomato are used for tomato cultivation. Different varieties have been developed by research institutions that are high yielding and resistant to various diseases. Some of those tomato varieties in India are:

Rajni

  • Early growing type.
  • Rounded, red-colored fruits.
  • Well-suited for long distance transportation.

Rashmi

  • It is a widely adapted, determinate variety.
  • Rounded, red colored fruits.
  • The tomatoes have firm and smooth texture.
  • Resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilts.
  • Used for food processing.

Vaishali

  • A determinate hybrid variety of tomato.
  • Each fruit is medium sized weighing about 100 grams.
  • Well-suited for tomato cultivation in summer as it needs hot and humid weather conditions.
  • Resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilts.
  • Used for tomato juice preparation.

Rupali

  • Early yielding, determinate and compact growing hybrid tomato variety.
  • Produces good foliage cover.
  • Fruits are red-colored, round, firm and smooth.
  • Individual fruit weighs about 100 grams.
  • Resistant to fusarium and verticillium.

Pusa Early Dwarf

  • Developed by IARI, New Delhi.
  • Early ripening cultivar with fruits being ready for harvest within 75-80 days of transplantation.
  • Round fruits with a flattish base and yellow stem end.
  • Their size varies from medium to large.
  • Average tomato crop yield per acre is 15 tonnes.
  • Suitable for both processing as well as table purposes.

Pusa Ruby

  • Developed by IARI.
  • Early growing cultivar with a small furrow.
  • Fruits ripe uniformly and the stem end has a slight yellow color.
  • Can be sown in both autumn-winter and spring-summer cycles.
  • Suitable for processing and table purposes.

Pusa 120

  • Developed by IARI.
  • The fruits have a uniform ripening.
  • They are medium or large sized with an attractive and smooth texture.
  • The stem end is yellow in color.
  • This variety is resistant to nematodes.

Sioux

  • Developed and released by IARI, Delhi.
  • This variety is suitable for cultivation in hilly areas.
  • The fruits are medium to large in size.
  • They are round-shaped with a yellow stem end.
  • Their keeping quality is low and hence suitable only for short distance marketing.

Marglobe

  • This variety is developed by IARI, New Delhi.
  • It is a late maturing variety.
  • They are suited for hilly area cultivation.
  • Fruits are large, round-shaped and have a smooth texture.
  • They are juicy with a green stem end.

Co1

  • Released by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore.
  • It is suitable for growing in South India.
  • The fruits ripen uniformly.
  • They are round and their stem end is yellow.

Roma

  • Released by IARI, New Delhi they are highly productive.
  • The plants produce excellent foliage.
  • Fruits are elliptical in shape and their stem end is thick and yellow.
  • Tomatoes are suitable for processing.

S-152

  • Developed and released by IARI, New Delhi they determinate variety.
  • Fruits produced are egg-shaped and have a yellow stem end.
  • They are suitable for canning purposes.

Punjab Chuhra

  • This variety was developed and released by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana.
  • The fruits are elliptical with a yellow stem end.
  • They are suitable for processing.

Best of All

  • Developed and released by IARI, New Delhi, this variety is of the indeterminate type.
  • They are suitable for cultivation in the hilly areas.
  • Fruits are borne in clusters.
  • Fruits are firm, round-shaped and have a green stem end.

Arka Abha (BWR1)

  • Developed and released by IIHR, Bengaluru, this is a hybrid, semi-determinate variety.
  • Individual fruit size varies from large to medium and weighs about 75g.
  • They are oblate and have a green shoulder.
  • Crop is cultivated in both Rabi and Kharif seasons and they mature within 140 days.
  • They are resistant to bacterial wilt.
  • Average tomato yield per acre is 17 tonnes.
  • Table purpose variety.

Arka Alok (BER-5)

  • Developed and released by IIHR, Bengaluru they are determinate variety.
  • Size of the fruits is large and their shape is square round.
  • They are red with pale green shoulders.
  • Crops are cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi seasons.
  • They are resistant to bacterial wilt.
  • They mature in 130 days.
  • The average yield is 18 tonnes per acre.
  • Table purpose variety.

Arka Ashish (IIHR-674)

  • They are a hybrid variety developed and released by IIHR, Bangalore.
  • The plants are semi-determinate.
  • Foliage of the crop is dark green,
  • Fruits are thick red in color with very firm flesh and square-round shape.
  • Tomatoes of this variety can be cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi season.
  • They are tolerant to powdery mildew.
  • The fruits mature within 130 days.
  • Average tomato yield is 15 tonnes per acre.
  • They are suitable for processing.

Arka Abhijit

  • Developed and released by IIHR, Bengaluru they are of semi-determinate variety.
  • Plants produce dark green foliage.
  • Individual fruits are round with size varying from large to medium.
  • Each fruit weighs about 70g.
  • They have a keeping quality of 17 days. Therefore, they are suitable for long distance transportation.
  • Tomato farming is possible in both Kharif and Rabi seasons.
  • They are resistant to bacterial wilt.
  • Fruits mature and are ready for harvest within 140 days.
  • Average yield is 26 tonnes per acre.

Arka Ahuti (Sel 11)

  • The plants are of semi-determinate type.
  • Crops are cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi seasons.
  • They mature and tomatoes are ready for harvest within 140 days.
  • Suitable for table purposes.

Arka Meghali

  • This hybrid variety released by IIHR, Bangalore has semi-determinate plants with dark green foliage.
  • The fruits are oblate in shape with light green foliage.
  • Both Kharif and Rabi seasons are suitable for tomato cultivation.
  • They mature and tomatoes are ready for harvest within 125 days.
  • The average yield is 6-7 tonnes per acre.

Arka Saurabh ( Sel – 4)

  • This hybrid variety released by IIHR, Bengaluru has semi-determinate plants.
  • It has light green foliage.
  • The fruits vary from medium to large in size with a round nipple tip and light green shoulder.
  • Individual fruit weight is 70-75 g.
  • Variety is suitable for table purposes & processing.
  • Tomato is cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi season
  • They mature within 140 days.
  • Average yield per acre is 14 tonnes.

Arka Shreshta

  • It is a high yielding hybrid variety released by IIHR, Bengaluru.
  • The plants have pale green foliage.
  • Fruit size varies from medium to large
  • They are round and have light green shoulder.
  • Individual fruit weighs 70-75 g.
  • They are firm and can last upto 17 days. Hence they are suitable for long distance transportation.
  • They are Resistant to bacterial wilt.
  • Tomato farming is possible in both Kharif and Rabi season.
  • They mature within 140 days.
  • Average tomato yield per acre is 30 tonnes.

Arka Vardan ( FM hyb -2)

  • They are high yielding hybrid variety developed and released by IIHR, Bengaluru.
  • The fruits are large with green shoulder.
  • Individual fruit weighs 140 g.
  • They are resistant to nematodes.
  • Crops are cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi season
  • They mature in 160 days.
  • Average yield is 30 tonnes per acre.

Arka Vishal (FM HYB -1)

  • This high yielding hybrid variety was developed and released by IIHR, Bengaluru.
  • The fruits are large with green shoulder.
  • Individual fruit weight is 140 g.
  • Crops are cultivated in both Kharif and Rabi seasons.
  • They mature within 165 days of cultivation.
  • Average tomato yield is 30 tonnes per acre.

Land Preparation for Tomato Cultivation

Land preparation for tomato plantation
Land preparation for tomato plantation

The field for growing tomatoes must be thoroughly decimated and fragmented through repeated ploughing. It needs about 5 ploughings before cultivation. The step after ploughing is leveling. The land is leveled evenly and beds are prepared for planting the tomato seeds. However, the land must be sterilized after ploughing so as to destroy the disease causing pests and microbes. They are commonly sterilized by solarization. However they are also sterilized by drenching the soil with Dithane M-45. Another way is to use formalin. Formalin is mixed with water in ratio of 1:7 and covered with plastic mulch for 10-15 days. The soil is turned once the formalin odor subsides. This is done to remove the remaining formalin odor. After a gap of 2-3 days the field is ready for transplantation.

Planting Tomato Crop

Season for Tomato Plantation

Since tomatoes are day neutral, they can be grown during any season. In the southern parts tomatoes are transplanted in three cycles:

  1. December to January
  2. June to July
  3. September to October

In the northern plains the transplantation schedule is as below:

  1. July (Kharif crop)
  2. October to November (Rabi crop)
  3. February months (Zaid season)

It transplanted during September and October months in the southern plains only if adequate irrigation facilities are available. Similarly, in the northern plains, Rabi crop may not be taken since they may get affected by frosts during winter.

Tomato Seeds

The seeds are first raised in nurseries and then transplanted after a period of 30- 45 days. Hybrid and exotic varieties are sown in small plastic cups while other varieties that are not too costly to procure are sown in nursery beds specially raised for the purpose. The seeds are treated with Trichoderma (5-10 grams per Kg), dried under shade and then sown. They are sown in about ½ cm. depth and then covered with top soil. After sowing, they are mulched with green leaves. A shower of water should be sprayed on them everyday till germination. The mulch must be removed immediately after germination. Before transplantation, irrigation is done once every week. It is irrigated heavily the day before transplanting.

Transplantation

Transplantation is done in shallow furrows or flat beds as per the irrigation availability. During the monsoon and in case of heavy soils, seedlings are planted on ridges so that the water does not get logged. In case of hybrids and indeterminate varieties, seedlings must be staked using bamboo sticks. if planted in furrows then they are planted at a spacing of 30 cm from each other. For spring-summer crop the spacing maintained is 75 X 45 cm and 75 X 60 cm for autumn-winter crop.

Greenhouse Tomato Farming

Greenhouse tomato farming
Greenhouse tomato farming

Tomato is a well-suited crop for greenhouse farming. Controlled climate helps to achieve bumper yield with longer harvesting period. There are special varieties of seeds for tomato cultivation in greenhouse.

Tomato farming is also possible in hydroponics. The initial cost of hydroponics farming is comparatively very large but hydroponics gives the most yield per acre in tomato cultivation.

Disease Protection

Tomatoes suffer from different diseases caused by fungus, virus as well as bacteria. Some of them include Fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, leaf blight, mold rot, mosaic virus and damping off.  One of the best ways of disease management is selection of resistant varieties. The soil must be solarized or partially sterilized to destroy the disease causing microorganisms. Partial sterilization can be done by either burning the crop debris or by treating the soil with Dithane M-45. Dipping the seeds in 2g carbendazim is also recommended. Tomato crop must be rotated with leguminous crops after one year of tomato cultivation. In addition to these, the fields must have efficient water drainage systems. At the time of watering, care must be taken to avoid wetting the leaves and flowers. Water must be dispensed only at the roots to avoid fungal contamination and spread. Heavily infected plants must be uprooted and destroyed immediately. Occasional spraying of crops with 200 ppm of Streptocycline also gives a good control over the disease.

If practicing organic farming then organic and biological pest control should be followed as needed.

Harvesting from Tomato Plantation

Harvested tomato crop
Harvested tomato crop

Tomatoes can be harvested within 2-3 months of plantation. Depending on the market demand, 8-10 harvesting of tomato is done on yearly basis. The average tomato crop yield per acre in India is about 10 tonnes although the yield varies from 15-20 tonnes per acre in case of irrigated crops.

Conclusion

Tomato is a one of the most profitable crop in India. Hence, commercial cultivation of tomato is a very profitable agribusiness. Tomato cultivation is possible throughout the year in different parts of India. Using scientific techniques and proximity to large cities or towns increases the profitability of tomato farming.

Reference

  1. http://agriexchange.apeda.gov.in/Market%20Profile/one/TOMATO.aspx
  2. http://agropedia.iitk.ac.in/content/tomato-cultivation
  3. http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/banking/PDF/Tomato.pdf
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato
  5. http://www.ncpahindia.com/Tomato-Solan
  6. http://nhb.gov.in/pdf/vegetable/tomato/tom013.pdf

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