Off-season Tomato Production Technology

Off-season tomato production technology is to gain higher yields and incomes with high market demand of tomatoes. Tomato is one of the world’s most used and popular vegetable crops. It is mainly cultivated in subtropical climatic conditions as it is sensitive to frost and high temperatures. Rendering high and low temperatures during summer and winter leads to poor yield. Cultivation of tomato is possible in a wide range of soils having good water holding capacity. In the recent past, off-season cultivation of tomato is gaining importance in India as off-season produce will fetch a high price and increase in availability of various technologies like protected cultivation, etc. for off-season production. In India, prevalence of various climatic conditions round the year due to varied topography that facilitates the availability of off-season tomatoes in plains that are produced in hills. To meet the year-round demand for tomatoes, off-season cultivation has to increase.  In this article, we will discuss various techniques for off-season cultivation of tomatoes.

Climatic requirements for tomato farming:

Tomato is highly susceptible to high and low temperatures. It grows well at temperatures range of 1 to 30°C. The optimum temperature for tomato cultivation is 20°C- 24°C. Temperature below 16°C and above 27°C is not suitable for tomato cultivation. Lycopene production will be highest at 21°C-24°C temperature whereas, its production falls significantly at a temperature above 27°C. Fertile soils with rich organic matter along with good water holding capacity are said to be ideal for tomato cultivation. While sandy loam soils are suitable for early off-season crops whereas heavy soils with high organic matter are suitable for getting high yield. Tomato is a little tolerant of slightly acidic conditions. However, optimum pH for tomato cultivation is 6.0 to 7.0.

Protected cultivation technology for off-season tomato farming:

When the temperature and humidity are not suitable for tomato production in open field protected cultivation provides a great scope for off-season tomato cultivation. Naturally ventilated Quonset playhouses are widely in use for off-season cultivation in mid-hills of northwestern Himalayas. A lot of subsidies are given for the establishment of such type of playhouses under various horticultural programmers planned by the central government and various state governments. These poly houses can be used for the production of off-season nurseries either in conventional beds or in portrays. After outside climatic conditions become favorable, seedlings are transplanted into the main field. Such a crop gives early yields and becomes off-season. Therefore, they are sold at a higher price which leaves the farmers in high net returns.

Yield under protected cultivation is 2 – 3 times higher than open field conditions and also farmers can take around two crops in a year. During autumn successfully off-season crops can be grown under poly house conditions as the solar radiations get trapped inside it and heat up the poly house due to the greenhouse effect. Cultivation of tomato under polyhouse conditions gives quality produce that fetches a premium price in the market. Cultivation of tomato under protected conditions requires intensive care. To prevent overcrowding and to increase aeration, prune the emerging lateral shoots. Train the plants to retainone or two stems. For effective utilization of space inside the poly house, train the plants upright vertically. Nourish the plants properly for better growth and development after attaining the age of two weeks by applying various water-soluble fertilizers (NPK: 19:19:19). Remove all leaves on the main stem up to 2-3 nodes.

In off-season cultivation of Tomato, root-knot nematode became a serious problem under protected conditions. Bio fumigation provides effective control against this and yield increase is seen with bio fumigation. From the last few years, efforts are made for the development of semi-closed greenhouses. With these semi-closed greenhouses, we can get the benefits of reduced pesticide use, increased carbon dioxide levels, and energy saving.

Under protected conditions, it is possible to grow tomatoes in soilless media like coco peat, vermiculite, coffee pulp, and rock wool, etc., and fertilizer nutrients are made available for the plants by providing them through the fertigation system. It circulates water enriched with various micro and macronutrients constantly. In recent years hydroponic cultivation of tomatoes became a practice in many developed countries. Most noteworthy is it has many advantages over conventional production systems like healthy, uniform and increased yield, conservation of water and land, and controls environmental pollution and reduces the cost of labor in various farm operations.  

Grafting technique for off-season tomato production:

Cultivation of tomato in the rainy season is encountered with various problems like flooding, various diseases, and insect pests. As a result, tomato is cultivated before the onset of the rainy season in our country. Bacterial wilt is a serious problem in tomato cultivation. Grafting of tomato on brinjal provides a way for eliminating bacterial wilt and also it is evident that grafted plants on showed 20 % increased yields compared to normal plants. For this grafting, eggplant seeds need to be sow 5 – 7 days prior to tomato seeds to use as a rootstock. When brinjal seedlings are around 3- 4 weeks old grafting should be done.

Grafting is done by cutting both stock and scion with a help of blade at 70 -80 degrees angles above the cotyledon or first two leaves and inserting rubber tubing, 10 mm long and 1 – 1.5 cm diameter on the stock allowing the cut portion of the scion to get in touch with each other. These grafted seedlings need to be kept in humidity chambers and later transferred to place with cool and dry conditions that are covered with a complete black net. Consequently, seedlings are transferred into the open field after the union of graft. Furthermore, for grafting, we need to select an indeterminate tomato variety for scion purposes. For proper growth and development trellis should be provided compulsory.

Recommended dose of fertilizers for off-season tomato cultivation: Firstly, for the New Delhi, region recommended dose of fertilizers is 60kg of nitrogen and 60kg of phosphorous along with 5 tons of farmyard manure per hectare. Whereas, for Coimbatore region, recommended dose of fertilizers is 100kg of nitrogen and 80kg of phosphorous and 50kg of potash along with 5 tons farmyard manure per hectare. Recommended dose of fertilizers for Bangalore region is 115kg of nitrogen and 104kg of phosphorous and 64kg of potash. For UHF, Nauni and Solan regions, recommended dose of fertilizers is 100kg of nitrogen and 75kg of phosphorous and 55kg of potash.

Use of plant growth regulators in off-season tomato cultivation:

  • Spraying of ethephon at 200 – 500 mg per liter will induce flowering and better rotting.
  • 2, 4 –D at 2 – 5 ppm will increase fruit set, earliness, and parthenocarpy.
  • 1 – BA at 50 -100 ppm spray will increase fruit set.
  • GA at 50-100 ppm foliar spray will elongate shoot growth.
  • PCPA at 50 ppm spray is useful in fruit set under adverse climatic conditions.

Suitable varieties for off-season production of tomato: Moreover, varieties suitable for off-season cultivation must possess some unique features to grow in unfavorable conditions which are range of germplasm pool to use as resistant for various diseases insect pest and biotic and abiotic stresses, etc and it can be transferred into horticulturally superior cultivars.

Storage of marketing for off-season tomatoes cultivation: 

Off-season produce will provide high returns for the farmers. Store the tomatoes in evaporative cold storage as well as at low temperatures. To increase the shelf life of the produce pre-cooling is necessary before storage and transportation. Store the fruits at the mature green stage in 100 gauge thickness poly bags at 12–13°C for up to   4–5 weeks. Storage of tomatoes at breaker stage in zero energy cool chambers in summer will extend shelf life around 4-5 days. By using polythene as pre-packing material we can increase shelf life and it also reduces physiological loss in weight. 

Conclusion: Therefore, this is all about off-season tomato farming in India. Furthermore, comment below for more information and queries. 

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