Tomato farming is one of the most profitable agribusiness ventures that could potentially make you leave your office job. Join me as we explore more about how this household fruit/vegetable is grown.
We will start off with a tomato joke that goes like this: Knowledge is: knowing that a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is not including it in a fruit salad! Huh!
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Whether you consider a tomato to be a fruit or a vegetable, we all have one thing in common. We use it in preparing almost all dished that come out of our kitchens.
This has made tomatoes one of the most sought after agricultural products and creating a whole business around the commodity.
What is Tomato farming?
Tomato farming is not a new venture and probably you have heard of success stories of farmers who made millions from tomatoes while others lost all their fortunes in a failed tomato farming venture.
It all narrows down to the timing and the practices that you follow to grow the crop. In this article, we are going to guide you on the nitty-gritties of tomato farming hoping that you will make your fortunes from the venture.
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Apart from the economic aspect of farming tomatoes, the fruit is a vital addition to our diets since it is packed with various anti-cancer properties such as lycopene nutrients, Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
We are going to use data from the 2017 International journal of Vegetable science. They carried out a study on tomato farming in Kenya and here are the important highlights.
Some of the key highlights that fail many tomato farmers in Kenyan include;
- Poor soil management practices
- Nematode Infestation and other common plant diseases
- Poor use of chemical fertilizers and Agrochemicals to grow tomatoes
Tomato Varieties grown In Kenya
Based on the climatic conditions and other ecological factors, it has been established that the following tomato varieties are best suited for the Kenyan Climate.
If you are a tomato consumer, you definitely must have noticed that there are different types of tomatoes that vary in size, shape and even taste. You even probably have a preferred greengrocer who sells bigger tomatoes than the others.
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Choosing the right tomato variety is the first determining factor to whether you will reap fortunes or run into losses.
Here are the eight best tomato varieties to grow in Kenya.
- Roma Tomatoes
- Tomatoes in the vine
- Heil Room tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cocktail Tomatoes
- Grape Tomatoes
- Red Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Green Beef Steak Tomatoes
Challenges Facing Tomato Farming in Kenya
The challenges facing tomato farming in Kenya are far-ranging. We are going to take a look at the common mistakes and challenges that farmers encounter from planting all the way till they harvest their produce.
Tomatoes are very delicate crops and they should be handled with a lot of intellectual knowledge. Failure to which, a farmer could lose all his crops in a single day.
No matter how good of a farmer you are, you cannot just wake up one morning and venture into tomato farming without taking some notes.
Most farmers fail because they apply their general knowledge in tomato farming even where they should not.
Be the farmer who does it right by going through this article to establish the common mistakes farmers make and how to avoid them.
Mistakes made by farmers in Tomato farming
Poor soil management
Collecting anything that looks like organic manure to top-dress during tomato planting highly exposes tomato seedlings to diseases.
This is because tomato seedlings are very delicate. Therefore, farmers should ensure they use organic manure that is nutritious and not ‘dirt’.
Weak tomato seedlings
Seedlings in the soils that don’t cement properly expose seedlings to be washed away by running water or fallen by wind movements.
Shading your tomato seedlings
When tomato seeds are actively growing, they require a lot of energy to go through this intense process.
One important stage for these seedlings to make energy is through photosynthesis. As such, tomato seedlings need a minimum of seven hours to make get average glucose. Shading tomato seedlings from sunlight limits their full growth potential.
Plant tomatoes without focusing on the right measurements between each tomato seed lead to low yields.
When tomatoes are close to each other, the competition for nutrients from the soil and sunlight becomes stiff and this might disadvantage some seedlings.
Equally important, when you plant tomatoes closely the potential for disease and pest infection increases in case one plant is affected. Always consult on pacing from your seedling supplier.
Planting the wrong tomato variety
This is a simple logic to understand but often missed by many tomato farmers. You need to understand that each tomato does well in the right type of soil that they match with.
So, most tomato farmers in Kenya go out there and buy tomato seeds without consulting on the type of soil in their land that matches with the right tomato seed.
As a result, they experience poor growth rate that further leads to low yields. Note that each tomato seed goes with the ideal PH soil environment.
Not pruning tomato plants
This is a quick one, not pruning tomatoes limits air circulation on the plant structure and also waste plant food to leafy pats that are not needed. All these limit the full potential growth of tomatoes.
Using too much fertilizer
Here the rule of diminishing results does apply. Even though using fertilizer boosts nutrients in tomato plants, going overboard could actually be poisoning the plants.
From the above challenges in regards to tomato planting, I am confident that you now have a better understanding, as a beginner on tomato planting on how to engage in this venture productively.
Leading Tomato producing regions in Kenya
- Central Kenya
- Mount Elgon region
- Rift Valley (Nakuru and Naivasha)
There is a huge potential for areas like western Kenya to adopt tomato farming if meaningful consultation is done since these areas are fertile.
Areas like North Eastern and Eastern parts of Kenya which are arid and semi-arid can embrace tomato farming by the use of greenhouses and irrigation technology.
Step by step Guide to Planting Tomatoes
I wouldn’t call this a day without taking you through a guide on how to plant tomatoes. Below are the steps that you should know.
Prepare the soil by removing the weed and applying manure or fertilizer in a good time. This should be done at least two weeks before actual planting.
Measure the spacing on the ground on how seedlings should be planted from each other. There is no standard spacing as every manufacturer advises differently.
Remove the seedlings from the seedbed, then plant on the holes that were prepared on step 2.
Add water to the newly planted tomato seedlings.
Fence the tomato farm to ensure that no chickens, animals or kids come into the field.
Ensure that the farm has no shade. The tomato seedlings should at least have 7 hours of sunshine.
Tomato prices in Kenya
The price of tomatoes in Kenya varies by season. Below are some of the recorded tomato prices in different markets across the country by January 2020.
Tomato Prices by Region in Kenya
- Nairobi City: 64Kg went for Ksh 7,200.
- Mombasa: 64 Kg saw consumers pay Ksh. 7,000.
- Kisumu: 64 kg retailed for 8,500 shillings.
Tomato farming is a venture that comes with great promise but if done wrong could result in massive losses. Make sure you follow this guide before you venture into tomato farming.
It is also important to have your markets predetermined long before your product is ready for harvesting.
This way, you will reduce plant loss, wastage and cut on losses. I hope the article was helpful to those of you who wish to try tomato farming.