Organic tomatoes fetch a higher premium!
Walk into a vegetable store and enquire about the prices of organic tomatoes and non-organic tomatoes.
You will agree that organic tomatoes fetch 10% to 30% higher price than conventional tomatoes do. This is a big incentive for any farmer to switch to organic farming of tomatoes. You will be surprised to know, but tomato is one of the highest pesticide sprayed vegetable in the world. Hence, growing organic tomatoes gives farmers a satisfaction that they are not using harmful chemicals for growing the crop.
But what concerns farmers is – normally organic food produce is little less than conventional food produce. Hence, will the organic tomato production in their farm be as much as the chemically grown produce? The answer to this question is – yes, if efficient organic tomato farming techniqes are employed, the production is comparable to that of chemically grown tomatoes. So how do farmers who wish to grow organic tomatoes ensure efficient production? Or for that matter, even if you wish to grow organic tomatoes in your organic garden, how do you go about doing it?
How to grow organic tomatoes?
The important considerations while growing organic tomatoes include variety selection, crop rotation, soil fertility, pest control and weed control. These considerations are applicable for organic tomato gardening as well.
Variety of Tomatoes: If you are a farmer intending to sell the tomatoes, your variety selection should be governed by market demand. But if you want to grow it for your own consumption, nutritional value of the tomatoes becomes important. You should also take into consideration the resistance to diseases offered by various varieties. Finally you don’t want a tomato that has high nutritional value but easily succumbs to diseases. Suitability to the climatic conditions and the production technique should also be considered. Thus the type of seed you select for your organic tomato crop is very important.
Crop Rotation: We all know how important crop rotation is in organic farming. For efficient organic tomato production, you should rotate tomato with non-solanaceae crops. Solanaceae group of plants include tobacco, morning glory, potato, pepper, and tomato. So don’t rotate tobacco, morning glory, potato and other solanaceae plants with tomato.
Soil Fertility: Maintain a fertile soil by adding organic matter to it regularly. If you are performing organic farming on your land since many years, your soil has a good nutrient content. Just ensure that you are rotating tomato with legumes once in a few years so that the soil is rich in nitrogen. You can also add compost, barnyard manures and poultry litter to further enrich the soil.
Pest Control: It has been observed that organic tomato plants have fewer pest and insect problems than the conventional chemically grown tomato plants. Moreover, if you practice crop rotation, the lifecycle of insects and pests is broken and you have fewer pest menace. Trap crops are also effective in controlling pests. An example of a trap crop is sweet corn. Sweet corn attracts tomato fruitworm and thus protects your tomato crop when inter-planted with it. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to grow three to four plants of sweet corn in your home garden too to keep the tomato plants safe from the fruitworm?
Weed Control: Weeds are a big nuisance as they take up the nutrients in the soil and can also harbor insects and diseases that cause harm to tomatoes. These weeds start growing four to five weeks after transplanting the tomato saplings. Hence focus on extensive weed control during this period and don’t let the weeds grow in numbers. Organic weed control can be achieved by using organic matter and mulches as these restrict weed growth. Crop rotation, sanitation, and shallow tilling also help in controlling the weeds.