HOW TO START TOMATOES FARMING IN NIGERIA
Tomatoes is a kind of vegetable that is widely eaten all over the globe. There is a high rate of consumption of this vegetable now due to the attendance health benefits attached to it. This has in a way given rise into tomatoes farming business in Nigeria.
The amazing thing is that the list of young people diving into this business opportunity is alarming and quite encouraging.
Tomatoes is mostly used for sauce, stew, paste, salad and also eaten as fruit.
Lets I forget Tomatoes farming in Nigeria is very lucrative because of the high rate of its consumption. Have you ever witness the number of tomatoes trucks that are loaded into different locations from the North that is to tell you how much it has become the darling of every kitchen.
So far the Northern part of Nigeria are the highest producers of tomatoes. But in essence it can be planted anywhere in country.
In other to boost our local tomatoes paste companies and to encourage new ones; we are encouraging more people especially the youths to go into tomatoes farming business in Nigeria.
Our nation can make more capital when this crop is processed into paste and powder for both local consumption and for exportation.
TOMATOES FARMING IN NIGERIA
Tomatoes farming can be carried out in any part of Nigeria. However before you start you have to consider the steps and techniques to follow in other to have a good success.
In this article, I have outlined the steps to take which are; clearing of the farm to be used, making of beds/ridges, planting, fertilization, weeding, insects/pests control, irrigation, harvesting and marketing.
This should be well planned for and structured out in a way that it can be achievable.
The best time to start tomatoes planting is during early rains from between March-May. You have to start small by doing a sample farm first for trial farming before engaging in a large farming. Maybe you start from a plot into a hectare.
There are so many varieties of tomatoes which comes in different shapes and colour. Some are red while others are orange colours when ripe and green when unripe.
- Determinate tomatoes (bush type), they can grow from 2-3 feet tall, buds from flowers instead of leaves. The flowers ripen and die at once.
- Indeterminate tomatoes (Vine type): this type requires staking because the continue in growth and fruiting for a long time before dying. Their fruits (crops) are long.
- Cherry tomatoes: they are good for short summer. Has small fruits which are more suitable for those growing in containers and are good disease resistance.
- Sungold: they produce from 65 days, good for salads and produces early until frost.
- Roma tomatoes (paste): They have less water thereby Lessing cooking time, few seeds, good for sauce, thickens naturally and stays longer in storage. This type is particularly good for commercial tomatoes farming.
HOW TO PLANT TOMATOES
You can plant directly but it might not yield as much as that of bed would do. Raise bed of 1m by 1m and broadcast the seeds evenly on it. Cover lightly with sand and mulch with compost. You can use palm fronds to cover them. Use mosquito nets to cover the nursery against insects. Transfer them to cups or nursery nylon after 14 days of germination.
Tomatoes starts sprouting 3-4 days after planting. The seed starts spreading out after 10 days. Transplant tomatoes seedlings at night when the weather is cool in other to avoid the harshness of the sun on it. You can plant into seedling trays, containers etc. 2-3 seeds in a hole.
They should be transplanted into the main field from 2-3 weeks of germination. Transplanting early reduces shock while allowing for faster establishment of the tomatoes crop in the main field. The row should be 3feet and 1.5-2ft between plants. Tomatoes can also be transplanted when they are 3-4 inches tall or at least have true leaves.
Plant them deep into the soil to help root penetration which will encourage the quick establishment of the plant. There are so many varieties to plant but I will rather advice you go for hybrid variety for commercial purpose.
You can delay transplanting if the rains are heavy (too much). Spacing should be 45 by 30cm or 30 by 30cm for maximum production.
TOMATOES SACK FARMING
Tomatoes flourish very well in sack, this is because of the benefits that follows sack farming such as water retention, week control etc.. But you have to make it purely organic this way.
Mix equal amount of animal dung and sand together, then plant on it, you will be amazed at the result you will have-bountiful harvest.
IRRIGATION IN TOMATOES FARMING
Tomatoes require water throughout its life span. Tomatoes may experience shock and die due to water shortage. But can also recover quickly in less than a minute when water is applied.
Apply water only on the roots and not on the leaves.
The water should not be too much just moderately because too much water will kill tomatoes plant. Water only in the morning and not in the evening. Damping off could occur due to evening irrigation as it encourages phythium activities.
Use compost manure mixed with fertilizer that has a good amount of phosphorus into the hole of the young plant. Chicken manure should not be used in the nursery because too much of it may inhibit proper root formation and establishment. While phosphorus will facilitate faster root formation, establishment and quick plant growth.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders just like other vegetables such as garden egg, carrot etc. Manure should be applied from time to time. After transplanting, during root establishment, after fruiting and during first harvest.
If you are using artificial fertilizer use NPK 17 17 17, 10g per hole. You can carry out soil analysis in other to ascertain the nutrient level of the soil before planting.
Top dress the soil with nitrogen nutrients 3-4 weeks after transplanting, again after 2-3 weeks.
Apply foliar fertilizer when the plant is weak or stressed up from too much heat or after a heavy down pour of rain. This is done to supplement the soil fertilizer that might have been washed off by rain.
Tomatoes farming in Nigeria is one that weed shouldn’t be allowed at all, weeding can be done 3 times before the plant dies. Early weeding will reduce the activities of diseases and pest.
Manual weeding is very much encourage because of the delicate nature of tomatoes plant. Employ labourers to do this for you since you may not be able to do it yourself especially if is a large expense of land.
Mulching should be done when the plants are still very young in other to retain moisture in the soil. Tomatoes needs an adequate amount of sunlight for good fruiting and formation.
PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL
It is difficult for vegetables to recover when already infested with disease. So in tomatoes farming we can boldly say prevention is better than cure. In other to prevent the plant from being attacked early by insects and pests, treat the nursery bed with insecticides before planting the seed.
The common diseases are damping off caused by pythium spp. , Phytophthora blight, downy mildew, black rot etc.
Common pest are; aphid, whiteflies, lead miner, cut worms, cabbage saw fly, diamond back, moth, thrips, leaf miner etc.
Use fungicides and pesticides when necessary. You can please refer to my article on pepper farming to know how to treat them.
CAUSES OF LEAFROLL IN TOMATOES FARMING
It can be caused by stress from watering (either from too much watering or from shortage or insufficient water).
Also due to too much nitrogen in the soil caused by over-fertilization. Too much pruning is also a problem.
But leafroll is mostly caused by red spider. Cut off the affected part or permanently uproot them.
CAUSES OF FLOWER/FRUIT SHEDDING
Stress, insufficient/imbalance irrigation, pest damage, insufficient trace element. If your plant is resistant to insecticides you can keep on trying different methods because they sometimes behave this way.
Tomatoes duration is 3 months from nursery to harvesting, that is between 60-75 days. Tomatoes can be harvested for more than 3 months under good condition. And 6 months in green house. Just as it is done in pepper, stake your tomatoes plant early (at 6 weeks) so as to support their weight during fruiting.
Tomatoes is pluck out from its parent plant by the use of hand. Remove the vegetable when it shows ripeness but you can still remove them unripe. As tomatoes still continues ripeness after harvesting. After the first harvest, other subsequent harvest can be done every 3 days till the plant dies off.