Processing Tomato

Processing Tomato

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation, as a rule, can improve the performances of all crops. Tomato belongs to nightshade (Solanaceous) family, like pepper, potatoes, tobacco, and other plants: so, turning with such crops should be “long” because some diseases are common among these plants (Phytophtora for example). Tomato should not be grown on the same field within the period of 4 or, better, 5 years in order to avoid the building up of pathogens
Crop Rotations allow the farmer to spread labor intensive operations out throughout the whole season, reducing labor and equipment requirements peaks.
Exploitation of soil fertility is improved, because different crops roots explore different horizons of soil and utilize nutrients at different rates. For example, Soybean enriches the content of N in soil for following crops and Alfalfa moves nutrients from deep horizons of soil to shallower layers.
Structure of soils improves because residues from crop roots stay and decay at different depths and crop residues have different nutritional contents.
Management of pests and diseases gets easier because different crops have different pests: crop rotation is a powerful mean to avoid or reduce damages.
Management of weeds also get easier for the same reason: for example, control of monocot weeds (grasses) is much more easy in tomato than in monocot crop as cereals or corn.

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For tomato production, proper tillage is crucial for quick and uniform establishment of the crop in initial stages of growth, proper crop stand and thus optimal yields. Land preparation should involve enough tillage operations to get fine soil particles and make the soil suitable for seedlings or transplants establishment, providing the best soil structure for root growth and development. In areas where winter is cold, primary tillage must be carried out at fall. Tilled soil winters in cold conditions and clods are sized by frost in an optimal way. Tillage and preparation can take substantial time and wintering of the fields helps to get proper soil tilth, specially in heavy soils, thus decreasing the tillage passages in spring.

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Transplanting and Transplants

The vast majority of processing tomato fields are transplanted. Assuming transplanting and not seeding is carried out, tomato will require from 25,000 (USA) to 33,000-35,000 transplants per Ha (Italy). Typically, 5 to 6 week old tomato seedlings are transplanted into the field. As with most similar vegetable crops, container-grown transplants are preferred over bare root plants. Container grown transplants retain transplant growing substrate (soil-substitute) attached to their roots after removal from the container (flat, tray). Many growers prefer this type transplant because
• they are less subject to transplant shock
• they usually require little if any replanting
• they resume growth more quickly after transplanting
• they grow and produce more uniformly.

Precision Planting

• Planting, as said above, is a second choice operation for tomato crops. If such a pattern has to be implemented, here are some suggestions.
Uniformity in tomato is an important factor for high yield crops. Producing a high yield crop starts with the right balance between healthy, productive plants and the plant’s ability to utilize available resources.
Uniformity begins with a well-prepared seed bed and the use of precision vacuum planters.
Plants that emerge uniformly or transplants that start uniformly after transplanting, progress at the same rate of development throughout the growing season and deliver improved yield potential.
• Precision planter is set with inter row spacing of 150 centimeters, spacing between seeds 5.8 centimeter to obtain a seed rate of 115,000 seeds per hectare. This is the double than the final target, but decreasing the seeds rate would be very risky. Granulators for insecticide distribution are a must on the planter.
• Seeds are usually pelleted. Seeding depth is 2 to 3 centimeters, working speed 4-5 km per hour. The final target is 30,000-40,000 plants per hectare, and to get this target a manual thinning is required. Emergence of seedlings requires from 15 to 30 days, depending on soil temperatures.

Crop Protection

Crop protection is of paramount importance, because processing tomato is used to produce human food and the quality of fruit is crucial to get good price for the product. Diseases, insects, and weeds are serious competitors for crop, and spraying is needed on a regular basis. Weeds and/or pest can damage the yield up to the 100%, if not controlled or controlled too late.

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Guardian™ Front Boom Sprayers have clearance and balance which are crucial facts from agronomic point of view. Delivering consistent droplet size is a critical part of sprayer operation. This function can be more important depending on which chemical is used and on what canopy type.

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Fertilization of processing tomato, as for all crops, should be based on soil tests results.

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• Tomato is typically growth in irrigated conditions. Irrigation has an important influence on yield and quality of the product. Tomato water requirements are rather high; they are increasing from germination to the phases of flowering and fruit formation, then decrease during maturation of fruits. Of course, on different environments also water requirements are different: some guidelines are , though, possible. Tomato evapotranspiration in hot climates can vary from 2 millimeters in germination up to 5 to 8 millimeters in summer during fruit formation. This means a water consumption between 20 to 80 cubic meters per day and per hectare. As a whole, in southern hot regions, a total requirement of 5.000-7000 cubic meters per season is a good average. Therefore, irrigation is carried out frequently, every 5-7 days, with water eight of 30- 40 millimeters. In northern regions, 5 or 6 applications during the summer with an eight of 30 millimeters are normally sufficient.
• Different irrigation system are possible: surface irrigation from furrows, sprinkler irrigation with central pivot or hose reel machines, drip irrigation are most common systems used on tomato.
• Furrow irrigation works well on fields with a slope of 1-2% and length up to 300 meters: the system is less efficient than other are, but it’s economic. Sprinkler system do not need level fields, are more efficient that furrows, but are subject to the negative action of wind.
• Drip irrigation is the most efficient system and when applied with fertirrigation (distribution of fertilizers through irrigation water) brings outstanding productive results.

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Mechanical Harvesting

Processing tomato is harvested both manually and mechanically, but without doubt a modern agriculture must be equipped with self propelled or pulled harvesters. Mechanical harvesting is possible because a complex work has been carried out to obtain:
1. proper varieties or hybrids, resistant to mechanical damage (bruising)
2. a proper shape and size of fruits
3. a relatively uniformity in ripening time.

Mechanical harvesting is carried out on 100% of acreage in California and on 70% of acreage in North Italy. New hybrids and increased fertilizing, irrigation and crop protection have also increased the yields: mechanical harvesters can be equipped with sorters, both electro mechanical and electronic. The result is that the labor requirements for harvest has dropped to 0.4 hour per ton. The productivity of a modern self propelled harvester can be estimated in 300-400 Ha per season (season lasts from 50 to 60 days).

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