OUR ORGANIC TOMATOES JOURNEYPaul Rugendo
Tomatoes originated in Western South America and Central America. The indigenous Mexican people were the first to domesticate and cultivate it as food. The Spanish Brough the plant to Europe, after their encounter with the Aztecs during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. This was in a widespread transfer of plants, known as the Colombian Exchange. During the 16th century, the plant was introduced to other parts of the European colonised world.
Botanically tomatoes are classified as fruits, though they are eaten and prepared like vegetables. Highly nutritious, they are a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Tomatoes are also a source of the antioxidant lycopene, which reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease.
There are various varieties of tomatoes available in the market. During our seed propagation in late November 2021, we planted the Anna F1 variety. Its fruit has a deep red colour and is oval in shape and firm even when ripe. It can be grown outdoors but best performs in a greenhouse. Being a hybrid it is more resistant to common tomato pests and diseases.
After a month and a half, the seedlings were ready for transplanting from the nursery to the greenhouse. Being great ambassadors of organic farming we used Evergro organic fertiliser during this period as it is rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. General plant groin this period was relatively good. This was evident through the rapid growth and development of the tomato plants. It is at this stage that the plants were offered support by tying onto ropes, due to an increase in plant weight.
Two months after transplanting the tomatoes started flowering. At this stage, we encountered an infestation of whiteflies; hemipterans that typically feed on the undersides of the tomato leaves. Pyegar, a certified organic pesticide has come in handy in fighting the infestation as it was able to eliminate the pests completely. As an alternative, fly and pheromone trap methods were also used to control the whiteflies.
A month later our harvesting season began with an initial harvest of 85kgs. Henceforth we have been harvesting an average of 120kgs bimonthly.
However, our greatest challenge has been tomato russet mite which has led to the loss of a significant number of plants. The leaflets’ underside takes on a greasy metallic tint, subsequently leaving the leaves with a tan colouration. Its fruits are more or less coloured and are often small as well as show extensive corky areas. Due to the significant plant loss encountered we resorted to uprooting the whole crop and fumigating the greenhouse several intervals before planting.
We are certain this will help eradicate the pests and diseases as well. With tomatoes being quite sensitive plants we would recommend regular curative spraying intervals of 10 – 14 days.