The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit of the plant Solanumlycopersicum,commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae.Tomato is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. While tomatoes are botanicallyberry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that sprawls. It is a perennial in its native habitat, and cultivated as an annual. Fruit size varies according to cultivar, with a width range of 0.5–4 inches (1.3–10.2 cm).
Tomato farming is a lucrative agribusiness here in Nigeria. It’s not capital-intensive. What people don’t know Is that tomato farming is not only restricted in the north. You can start a tomato farm anywhere in Nigeria. All you need to start tomato farming in Nigeria is the resource and knowledge to start. Tomato planting is usually around April and March. With proper irrigation, you can start it up anywhere in Nigeria.
Benefits Of Tomato Farming In Nigeria
Tomato is a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene
200 million Nigerians use tomatoes to prepare numerous delicacies. This shows how lucrative this business is.
It’s not capital-intensive.
Very easy to manage
- Pick Up The Best Specie
Before you start your tomato farm, make sure you know the best tomato seed to go for. This is why you must first run a feasibility study before starting this business. When deciding on a specie, ask yourself;
- How high can it yield?
- Is it resistant to disease?
- Is it reddish and attractive when ripe?
Below are few tomato species you should consider.
UC – Tomato
Matt’s Wild Cherry
However, Roma tomatoes is more popular in Nigerian markets and is definitely the best you should go for.
- Acquire A Land
You can do this at your backyard. Just get a land and prepare it ahead of planting. When settling with a land, make sure the soil is well-drained, deep and loamy. If the land is suitable, then go ahead.
I always recommend getting a land not too far from your resident. This will ensure monitoring the growth of the tomatoes easily.
- Prepare The Land
After securing a land, you can either hire labourers to clear the land and till it, or you can do it all yourself. Make sure that every decision you make is friendly with your budget. Consider supplementing the soil with lots of manure. It could be a cow dung or poultry waste. The land needs to be ready before planting. If you are going for a large scale production, it is ideal to plough and harrow the field. You plough first and harrow two weeks after plugging in order to pulverize the soil.
- Plant Your Seed
If you want to plant in-situ (i.e. directly on the field without going through the nursery). You can make beds or ridges. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, dig a little hole and fill it in with two seeds. Then cover it delicately with soil. I will recommend covering it with grass also. This will reduce transpiration. When planting, leave about 2 feet (0.6m) between seedling and the rows 2 feet (0.6m) apart.
Otherwise, tomato is ideally raised first in the nursery for 4 weeks wherein beds are made, after which tomato seeds are broadcasted on the bed or planted in drilled furrows on the bed. These beds can be covered with grasses or raised palm fonds in order to reduce evaporation from the soil.
After 4 weeks, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted to the field. Carefully excavate the seedling from the nursery beds with soil covering the roots using a trowel and transplant into a little dug hole in the field. Transplant at a spacing of 0.6m between seedlings and 0.6m between rows. For rapid growth, NPK fertilizer can be applied at the base of the soil after which it will be covered with soil before the transplanting is done.
These seedlings will undergo what is known as transplant-shock wherein they shed some of the leaves after 1 – 2 weeks after transplant and grow new reproductive leaves.
- Control Weed
Some farmers do this two months after planting. However, you should weed whenever you see them sprouting up. The last thing you’ll do is engage the tomatoes in an unnecessary competition.
- Apply Fertilizer
After weeding, apply fertilizer cause it will accelerate growth by providing all the vital nutrients it needs to mature. Purchase a fertilizer with a 5-10 ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphors and Potassium.
When applying, you can mix the fertilizer with water and apply directly at the root surface or on the leaves using a knapsack sprayer or boom sprayer. Sulphur rich fertilizers are also recommended in order to prevent a phyiological disorder in tomato fruits known as blossom end rot.
- Water Your Tomatoes
Tomatoes needs lots of water and as they grow, their demand for water increase. Always water it in the morning and at night. You can build an irrigation if you can afford it. With this technique, you can grow tomatoes anywhere in Nigeria. It is worthy to note that tomato is ideally grown during the dry season under irrigation to achieve good yield as there will be less build up of fungal and bacterial diseases during this period which pose a great threat in tomato production. Nevertheless, tomato can also be grown during the rainy season under good management.
- Watch Out For Pest And Disease
Don’t go overboard when you see few insects hovering round your precious tomato plants. Most of them aids the development of your plant. However, another might be an enemy that needs to be eliminated. If they are few, then crush them with your thumb and always throw away the infected tomato. Not on the ground, but far away from your farm.
If they are becoming uncontrollably and unmanageable, releasing predators like ladybugs. They know how to solve the menace. If the problem persist, then an insecticide becomes our last hope.
Apart from pest, diseases can also come at play. But with the right measures, you’ll be able to conquer.
- Harvesting Your Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes can take approximately 75 days or more to mature. This timing is determined by some factors like the sun, soil nutrients daytime temperature etc.. However, when ripe, you should consider harvesting them. They might not mature in the same circle, but make sure you harvest those that are ripe already if you want to get the best from your tomato farm. This is because tomatoes are frugal and easily spoils.
- Market Your Tomatoes
Before your tomatoes rich maturity, you must have first discover a market for your produce. You can sell as a retailer or wholesaler depending on how big your tomato farm is and its yield. Tomato farming in Nigeria is another gold mine if done properly.