7 Critical Mistakes with Commercial Farming from Tomato Seedlings
Farmers save time and resources when buying tomato seedlings for commercial crop farming, but some mistakes in transplanting and growing tomatoes can cause an entire crop to fail miserably.
A closer look at these mistakes is given below. Using the information, newcomers to tomato crop farming in South Africa can avoid costly errors in preparing the soil, transplanting seedlings, watering the plants, and harvesting crops.
Planting While the Soil is Too Cold
Understandably, farmers want to get a head start by getting tomato seedlings in the ground as soon as possible. This can mean being able to harvest earlier, implying that products can get to the market quicker. It is a good strategy but transplanting the plugs to the soil too early can have the opposite effect.
Cold soil has a detrimental effect on the growth of young tomato seedlings as their roots do not develop when exposed to cold temperatures. The plug roots enter dormancy. In this state, the plants are exceptionally vulnerable to root rot and the development of mildew.
Instead, wait until the soil is warm enough for optimal root growth. Generally, once the soil is consistently 15ºC or higher, it is safe to commence with transplanting. A soil thermometer can be used to assess the ground temperature. This can be bought from the nearest agricultural co-op. In the absence of a soil thermometer, transplant when the temperature remains above 16°C for around ten days to allow for the soil to warm up enough for transplanting tomato seedlings. That said, also consider the nighttime temperatures, which should remain reasonable at 10°C or higher before transplanting operations commence.
Not Rotating Crops
Tomatoes are sensitive plants and particularly vulnerable to soil-borne pathogens. In addition, these plants need nutrient-rich growth environments. They retrieve nutrients from the soil for the entire growth period, which can deplete the soil from nutrients. Planting in the same soil without first giving the ground time to recover is a mistake. It is advisable to either leave the soil to recover or to rotate the crops that will allow for nutrient provision to the soil and prevent soil-borne diseases from the previous growth season to attack the young plugs.
With plants spaced too far apart, the farmer gets a lower yield per hectare, which affects the profitability of crop farming with tomatoes. However, not leaving sufficient space between the plants creates the ideal conditions for disease and pest spreading. It also makes it difficult to harvest the ripe fruits. Heed the spacing requirements for the particular variety of tomato seedlings. For more information, download the transplanting guide for tips on spacing requirements.
Incorrect Watering Practices
Tomatoes are vulnerable when it comes to water stress. Overwatering causes water clogging around the roots. In turn, this can cause root rot. It is imperative to allow the plants to dry out slightly before the next watering session as this allows for deeper and stronger rooting.
The opposite is also true. Leaving the plants without water for too long leads to wilting and underdeveloped fruits, plant death, disease, and low yields. Heed the watering requirements for the particular variety with consideration of the drainage capacity of the soil, whether growing in a greenhouse environment or outdoors, the climate, rainfall, humidity level, and temperature range. It is recommended to use drip irrigation rather than overhead sprinkler systems.
Not Preparing the Soil Deep Enough
Shallow planting means the seedlings cannot reach nutrients. In addition, if the soil is not prepared to the required depth as recommended by the seedling supplier, the lack of nutrients can lead to plant stress and slow growth. Planting deep enough enables better root forming. The more developed the root system is, the better the nutrient take-up. Where possible, use slow-releasing agents to allow for the ongoing supply of nutrients throughout the growth season.