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Are tomatoes difficult to grow?

By FELIX TEMBO
IN 2012, I did an article on tomato production and ever since I have been receiving comments from people saying the article helped them in tomato production quite well.
Some of them have gone to the extent of wanting to employ me on their farms. Mine is not about getting money from you, but to offer you information which may be helpful to you in growing your various enterprises.
That does not mean I do not need money. I will make my money differently and hope in the very near future I will retire to a small piece of land to practice on a large scale what I have been preaching.
Is there someone that can offer me a piece of land? Even 50 acres will be enough for me.
Indeed, tomatoes are not easy crops to grow. They are, however, not very difficult to grow if you follow the basics.
This plant belongs to the solanaceous which is a very important family.
Potatoes, egg plants, chilli and many other crops belong to this family. They can either be determinate or indeterminate just like some soybean varieties. Indeterminate varieties bear fruit continuously.
The choice on what to grow will depend on the level of management you want to employ and experience that one has in the growing of tomatoes.
To the new comers, it would be better to start with determination until when you have gained enough experience in tomato production.
To produce a perfect tomato fruit, always be alert and keep an eye on your plant’s health because this crop/plant is attacked by an array of diseases and pests.
I have seen farm managers being fired because they failed to control diseases. In some cases whole fields have been wiped out by diseases or pests.
The major diseases to watch out for are the fungal type such as Early Blight and Late Blight.
These are diseases which if not managed well can wipe out your crop.
They are more pronounced in the rainy season because of conditions that favour sporulation of the fungi.
The general physical features or symptoms of the diseases are primarily found on the leaves, but may also cause the fruit to rot near the stem.
Symptoms first appear on older leaves and are characterised by irregular shaped brown sunken spots with concentric rings.
The tissues surrounding each spot then turn yellow and die back before the leaves drop off.
On the other hand, Late Blight is caused by Phytopthora infestans, which is one of the most notorious and devastating organisms because the sporangia or mycelia (disease causing organisms) are dispersed from infected plants organ by wind, splashing raindrops or wind driven rain.
The leaves and tissue, including the fruit, will dry off as if there was a wild fire.
You will agree with me that rain fed tomato is quite difficult to grow. It is easier in the dry season. However, there are less notorious pests in rainy season than the dry one.
The most common pests are the aphids and fruit borers. On the other hand, many people have failed to manage the tomato crop and potatoes in the dry season because of the presence of pests called the red spider mites.
These are quite destructive and have the potential of wiping out the entire crop. This does not mean that you will have no red spider mites in the rainy season – far from it! It’s just that they are more destructive in the dry season.
The best way to control diseases and pests like I have always emphasised is to regularly scout your crop and institute remedial measures of spraying preventatively, unlike firefighting.
The author is an agribusiness expert. E-mail ftembo2001@gmail.com