Just imagine, Nigerians eat tomatoes every day. Let’s count: more than 200 million of the tomato-charmed consume the fruit/berry and want more! Thus, it turns to be a very profitable to grow and market tomatoes in this country. So, how to start tomato farming in Nigeria? How to grow tomatoes at home? What should be done first? Every single question and even more will be illuminated in this article. Keep reading it till the end and you will become a specialist in tomatoes cultivation.
Tomato originated from South America where till now there is a wide variety of wild and domesticated species. Undoubtedly, this fruit took on the world. Evidently, Nigerians are one of the leading nations possessing an insatiable appetite for tomatoes. This fruit/berry is used practically everywhere: Nigerian cuisine cannot live without this red-cheeked ingredient. Tomatoes are consumed fresh, boiled, fried and tinned. They are used to producing tomato paste, puree, ketchup, tomato juice and lots of other dishes and sauces.
Tomatoes are extremely popular food crop in the world, not to mention Africa. They possess precious dietary and nutritious qualities, moreover, there is a big variety of tomatoes. Importantly, this fruit/berry is sought-after owing to a high responsiveness level to applied cultivation techniques. It is cultivated in greenhouses and hot houses, on bare soil and even at home on window-sills and at balconies.
Tomatoes are sought-after and quickly sold in markets. That is why farmers are cultivating them in great quantities for sale. It is a profitable business to be involved in. Let’s get to the bottom in each nuance. The first is the cultivation of tomatoes.
Preparation for seeds sowing
One can hardly find a more favorable spot to cultivate tomatoes than Nigeria. Its climate suits just perfect this fruit/berry. You can grow it all year round if you have got an irrigation system or just give priority to the season of rains.
Apparently, future tomato harvest depends on a right choice of seeds and their sowing preparation. A farmer has to pick big, heavy and nutrient-rich species; this will make tomatoes strong, more resistant to different illnesses and changing weather conditions.
Concerning the best species of tomatoes, it should be jotted down that there is a large choice of the fruit variety. Your preference mainly depends on buyers. If tomatoes are transported far away, the farmer has to pick the hard-peeled species, like a plum variety. It is widely used for different purposes in Nigeria and abroad. The other popular specie is so-called ‘Italian’. It has got so appetite redness, rich taste and, importantly, ‘long life’. The latter is an essential advantage over the rest because these tomatoes cross the boundary quite often and have to look tasty and possess commercial presentation.
According to experts, it is important to put the selected seeds to saline solution (50 grams of salt per water liter), stir thoroughly and let them ‘rest’ for 10 minutes. The ‘drowned’ seeds are the most suitable for planting. After that: wash and dry them. Done! Start the cultivation phase.
Agronomists advise warming the seeds before sowing at a special place where the temperature rises from 20 to 80 degrees Celsius. As for various diseases, follow this tip: to prevent plant diseases it is necessary to disinfect seeds keeping them in 1 % solution of potassium permanganate.
Farmers claim that seeds ought to be grown at a temperature regime of 22-260 °С to accelerate a process of the first seedlings appearance. It is important also to make wet conditions for seedlings.
In order to adapt future tomatoes for unfavorable weather a farmer can put seeds to cold conditions at night and during day-time the temperature must be much higher. This procedure should be repeated several times.
The plant cultivation
Tomatoes cultivation can be made in greenhouses or on the bare ground. As a rule, the seeds are sawn densely in direct rows. The soil had to be disturbed and fertilized beforehand.
When the first green shoots appear in a greenhouse, the tomato seedlings should be ‘transferred’ to a bare soil, well dug and fertilized with manure that is rich in potassium chloride and super-phosphate.
Agronomists recommend starting seedlings cultivation on cloudy days or in the evenings. The holes should be poured with a weak solution of potassium permanganate to avoid a plant to be infected by fungus. The farmer must be very careful with young shoots and delve them to low leaves level keeping distance for about 30 cm between them. These measures will provide good ventilation and light conductivity.
Seeds sowing on a bare soil
To get a good crop, farmers work really hard. First of all, they begin from fertilizers. And there are some nuances of its preparation. The farmer has to chop wooden splinters, to add some dry hay, poultry manure, and cow dung. The mixture of these ingredients is left to rot for about 4 months. When the fertile humus is ready to use it has got potassium and phosphorus which are so useful for plants.
One more secret is a brand-new fertilizer made of only natural ingredients. When it is time to plant tomato seedlings it is very useful to pour some oxygen enriched water solution with earthworms excrement to the holes. The excrement and oxygen improve soil qualities and forthcoming tomatoes too.
Simultaneously with tomatoes, experienced farmers plant aubergines because these cultures have common pests. Aubergines will attract insects more than tomatoes.
While tomatoes are growing, it is usual for Nigerians to pour the plants with garlic brew. It strengthens tomato roots. The stronger the plant is – the better the fruit/berry will be.
If the farmer decided to cultivate tomatoes on a bare land it is necessary to fertilize and plow it. After that, the shoots can be sawn. If the chosen seed has got good quality than the first tomato shoots emerge in a fortnight.
It is known that tomatoes hardly grow and develop in an insufficiently wet soil. The toughest for a tomato farmer are the periods of flowering and fruit/berries inception! Meantime extremely moist soil becomes a reason of less sweetness, a watery structure of tomatoes and cracks or fractures on the peel. Therefore, it is recommended to water this plant not so often but in larger doses only on cloudy days or at nights. Tomatoes are usually irrigated to a root level or along furrows avoiding water drop occurrence on stems and leaves. It is advised also to water the seedlings with naturally heated water.
Constant humidity (that is so important for a developing of plant!) can be attained by means of a special film or even some organic remnants like weeds, manure or hay.
Water doses should be increased at the time of fruit inception and its active growing. If it does not rain, watering should take place every week spending about 5 liters of water per plant. Remember that the plant needs more moisture during the bearing period, so the farmer has to water tomatoes twice a week at least. The latter period of development requires also a constant care of the plants: soil plowing, weeds removing and earth loosening. It makes the soil better and provides easy air access to a plant root that influences positively on tomatoes development.
It is important to fertilize the soil with mineral fertilizers like potassium, nitrogen and certain growth regulators in parallel with breaking up of soil. Plants fertilizing demands attention to the appearance of a tomato seedling: if a tomato has got healthy stems and lush leaves, fertilizing may become even dangerous for a plant. Just do not go overboard.
As a rule, there are lots of shoots on a tomato stem while it is growing. They have to be removed because these shoots may turn the tomato seedling to a multi-stemmed bush that spends its strength to leaves growing, not ovaries. During the pinching process it is forbidden to let stem juice be on farmer’s hands because if a tomato plant is not healthy, there are possibilities to spread the disease among other plants. The best time for pinching is in the morning when it is sunny and warm outside.
One more sophisticated technique to cultivate tomatoes is called hydroponics that implies tomato planting using wood shavings. The plants absorb the solution of water with different useful minerals and nutrients that are coming through specially created capillaries. This method is cutting-edge and innovative in a way though it requires significant financial payments from the farmer.
Weeds management is an integral part of soil fertility practices. It is used to prevent and get rid of weeds which slow down the growth of tomatoes. It is essential to utilize effective products. Though, herbicides may also oppress tomato growth that is why a farmer has to keep to norms and deadlines of herbicides utilization and recommendations for their usage.
Pests of tomatoes
Be ready! It sometimes happens that tomatoes can be negatively affected by Colorado potato beetles, cutworms, aphids, mole crickets and bean seed flies. Insecticides are the best means to manage with this problem.
Tomato harvesting period depends on sowing time. Remember that it takes about three months for tomatoes to become ripe, juicy and yummy. After that you can start it over again: prepare seeds and soil, weed and fertilize, fight against insects and gather the harvest.
It is appropriate to harvest tomatoes when they are not completely ripe: when the fruit/berries became slightly rosy or red. In such a way the risk of tomatoes cracking at noticeable fluctuation in temperature and humidity is eliminated. It had been noticed that the gathered fruit ripened fast enough.
It is recommended to gather the tomatoes, grown on bare soil, before cooling. All the ripe and unripe fruit must be collected. As for dark-greenish tomatoes, they are not delicious. Forget about them. Tomatoes with mechanical damage are unfit for consuming as well. One more useful tip: to prevent tomatoes rotting specialists usually keep the harvest in a dry place with a temperature regime +4 - +50 °С during 4 hours. Then they put the fruit into the water solution of borax heated to +50 °С approximately for 1-2 minutes.
Nigerian tomatoes ripen all the year round that is why they are collected according to a necessary level of maturity. If they are exported, then green plants only are picked and packed. They easily ripen on the way.
As a rule, before packing tomatoes are washed thoroughly. Then they are transported to the sorting facilities where tomatoes are sorted through. Only smooth and right-shaped tomatoes are exported. Smashed, cracked, small and irregularly shaped fruit is used to make paste or ketchup.
The farmer can market large quantities of tomatoes through supermarket networks and stores, small business outlets and with the help of Internet: one can post a sales offer of wholesale installment of tomatoes. Just think about it in advance. Tomatoes are so popular here – you will not lose the game starting tomato business. All that you NEED are:
initial capital to buy all the stuff (seeds, instruments for the irrigation system, various garden tools, etc);
possess the land for cultivation ( you may even start from a tiny kitchen garden and expand in the future);
follow recommendations of experts;
work hard and read more;
posses some points of sale or look for beneficial links to market tomatoes.