Tomato Seedlings: Interesting Facts and Tips for South African Farmers
Farmers in South Africa no longer only need to produce tomato crops from seeds but can do so profitably from seedlings available from trusted bulk-supply nurseries. But why tomatoes?
Tomatoes are amongst the most widely grown crops in the world. The popularity of these plants in culinary uses ranges from uses in sauces and condiments, to fresh use in salads, processed as part of mixes, dried powder for soups, pastes, jams, etc. As excellent sources of antioxidants and vitamin C, these plants certainly deserve their place in gastronomy.
The Post Harvest Innovation Programme has recently reported a few interesting facts about tomato farming in South Africa. These include:
It is the second most important vegetable crop in the country, with potatoes being the most important.
It makes up 24% of the South African vegetable production.
Most of the produce harvested are sold locally.
More than 24 000 people are employed in tomato farming industry.
The crop can be grown throughout the year.
Main Crop Production Areas Include:
Western Cape (most grown in the areas of Robertson and Vredendal)
Mpumalanga (mostly propagated in the Lowveld region)
Limpopo (various areas)
KZN (northern part)
Northwest (in the Brits region)
Eastern Cape (in the East London region)
Which Challenges do Farmers Face, Whether Propagating from Seed or Seedlings?
High initial setting up costs
High labour costs
Unreliable electricity supply
Factors That Add to the Success of Propagation from Seedlings Include:
Buying disease- and pest-free seedlings from trusted nurseries
Proper soil preparation to include the right nutrients
Soil moisture content control
Prevention of water, heat, and drought stress
Weed and pest control
Spacing between plants
Choosing profitable varieties
Seedlings must be transplanted the same day or as soon as possible after delivery to the farmer. While still in the seedling pots, the farmer must ensure that the plugs stay watered. Proper planning is essential to ensure the soil is already prepared before the seedlings are delivered. The nursery guidelines must be followed. The planting guidelines are available here.
Inter-cropping with other vegetables, such as basil, carrots, garlic, onion, and ginger has been reported to help ensure good yields. Mulching has been recommended for outdoor crop management to reduce the risk of frost while also helping to keep moisture in the soil. Spacing the seedlings too close can put the plants at risk, as disease and pests can easily spread between the plants. To this end, careful consideration should be given to spacing that allows for sufficient sunlight penetration, maximum yield per hectare, and easier pest, disease, and weed control.
In terms of outdoor crops, tomato seedlings can be transplanted in the summer months with harvesting at the end of summer and during the autumn period. View this blog post for more information on growing tomatoes successfully from seedlings.