Tomato farming is the production and cultivation of the tomato plant for their fruits which are grown for consumption and sale. Tomato is the edible fruit of the tomato plant. They are characterized by its red, scarlet or yellow color when ripe. Its varies in shapes from spherical to elongated, oval shapes.
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The tomato plants are branched plants with hairy leaves which produce a characteristic odour. Tomatoes can be planted in the open field, green houses, gardens and even vases or pots.
They particularly thrive and grow well in relatively warm climate with much sunlight. The edible tomato fruit is consumed in numerous ways; as a food ingredient, used in dishes, sauces, salads and even drinks.
Why tomato farming?
It is easy to set up. Tomato farming is an ideal agricultural business which can be carried out on almost every type of Nigerian soil. The only costs to incur when starting this business is the cost of healthy tomato seedlings and the cost of irrigating the farm which the business generates as it has a high and faster return on investment.
The leaves, vines and fruits can serve medicinal purposes as they have been used to make medicines and herbs.
Tomatoes are consumed. Tomatoes are generally eaten (raw or cooked). They are sliced, stewed or diced and then served with other foods like salads, rice etc. Tomatoes are highly rich in nutrients. They are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants which support a healthy body growth.
It has a huge demand. The processing industry and the general public constitute a large market for tomato fruits. The processing industry process tomatoes into tomato pastes and the general public consume tomato.
This ensures that there is large market demand for tomato. And as the demand for tomato is greater than its supply, it makes the business a profitable and lucrative one.
Tomatoes offer a range of health benefits. Regular consumption of tomato reduces the risks of having diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, cancer, osteoarthritis, obesity etc.
Tomatoes serve as cash crops which could be exported to foreign countries or market so as to earn or serve as source of revenue and foreign exchange.
Types of tomatoes.
There are two main groups or types of tomatoes. These are;
Determinate tomatoes: They are also referred to as bushy tomatoes. They have a specific period for fruiting and flowering. These tomatoes produce much tomato fruits at a time and lose part or some of their leaves in the process.
They are suited for both domestic and commercial farming as they do not require staking or caging and can be grown in pots, vases or containers. They are of higher productivity when compared with their counterparts, the indeterminate tomatoes. They are ideal for tomato pastes and sauce production.
Indeterminate tomatoes: They are also called vining tomatoes. They produce the largest tomatoes during the farming season. Due to their unique, rapid leaf growth, they are generally productive tomato types.
They however need to be staked or caged as their branches are modified into rope-like structures called vines which must not be trampled on by the farmer. Examples of this type of tomatoes are; cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes etc.
Varieties of tomato plants.
Cherry or grape tomatoes: These varieties of the tomato plants produce small fruits. They are characterized by its red or orange colour when ripe. This variety is more disease resistant and is capable of surviving in drought prone areas, poor soils, and even poor climatic conditions.
Roma tomatoes: This variety of tomato has a high demand by the tomato processing industry as they make good tomato pastes or pastes. They have the best taste when compared with other varieties.
They possess thick, succulent skin, few seeds and little moisture content. The latter means that they can be stored for longer periods of time.
Hybrid tomatoes: These tomatoes are formed as a result of crossing two different tomato varieties. They are more disease resistant and produce more fruits.
Other varieties of tomatoes include: the Isis candy, black cherry, hill billy, Cherokee purple, Caspian pink, black krim, white wonder, beefsteak tomatoes etc.
Tomatoes should be planted in an area that has abundant sunlight. As tropical crops, tomatoes particularly thrive in warm climate or regions. The land should preferably be ploughed or tilled and applied with manure or other fertilizers. The ways one could plant tomatoes are;
Direct seeding: Tomato seeds could be planted directly in the garden, farm or any other preferred area. Before planting, it should be ensured that the seeds are viable and good for planting.
The land or soil should be loosened by ploughing. The farmer makes a small hole, about an inch deep and plants the seeds. The seeds should be watered to prevent desiccation and drying up of the seeds. Also, they should be provided with enough sunlight.
By transplanting: Alternatively, healthy seedlings could be grown in nurseries, green houses, gardens and transplanted to the actual farm. When transplanting, adequate spacing should be provided the tomato seedlings as overcrowding the plants would prevent them from receiving adequate sunlight.
They should also stake or cage the young tomato plants so as to keep the fruits off the ground and to bear the tomato plants erect and upright. Fertilizer particularly those rich in phosphorus should applied on the soil so as to promote tomato growth and development.