TOMATOES are grown in all seasons of the year helped by varying climatic conditions across the country.
Its early sowing takes place in August/September which fruits by November and is ready for harvest. Nursery for another sowing is prepared in September which is transplanted in October. The plants produce fruits from December to late January.
The main crop season is in mid-November when the nursery is prepared. The saplings are planted in February and the crop gets ready in abundance by May and June. There has been a progressive increase in area and production of tomato over the years.
The area under tomato in 2009-10 was 53.4 thousand hectares and the yield 561.89 thousand tons.
However, the yield could have been more but for various diseases that attack the plant during its growth. The average per acre yield of tomato in Pakistan is very low when compared to its yield in neighbouring India and China which together account for more than 25 per cent of the world crop.
To obtain high yield of the vegetable, agronomists emphasise the need for balanced and timely use of fertilisers and manure for tomato cultivars. Farmyard manure should be applied at the time of land preparation for maintaining proper physical conditions and fertility status of the soil. They generally recommend 75 kg of nitrogen, 60 kg of phosphorus and 60 kg of potassium fertilisers per hectare.
Half of these fertilisers together with full amount of farmyard manure should be incorporated into the soil at the time of land preparation for tomato. The remaining manure should be applied in two successive phases as side dressing to the plants one month after the transplantation of the saplings and after first picking of fruit. Balanced usage of fertilisers and farmyard manure enhances per acre yield..
Tomatoes are highly perishable vegetable, have a limited storage life and can be kept stored only for a short period of 7-10 days. The problem is further compounded by lack of cool chain system. Experts suggest picking of the fruits at the semi-ripe stage and placing them in well-ventilated store with low humidity at 1.1-2.2 °C. In such atmospheric condition the vegetable remains fit for human consumption for about three weeks.
The crop is grown for various purposes and the fruit should be harvested accordingly. For instance for canning and processing, the fruit should be harvested when it is full ripe on the vines. For local markets, it needs to be harvested in the hard ripe and pink stage. While for distant markets, the fruit should be picked in mature green or slightly pinkish stage. For home use, tomato may be left on the plants to attain full colour.
Tomatoes can be preserved by canning, drying, freezing, or pickling. They can also be used in creating fruit spreads like jams, jellies and marmalades. Raw tomatoes or raw tomato products can be kept refrigerated (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), but will spoil over time due to bacteria, yeasts, and molds.
Tomatoes stored in refrigerator turn grainy and lose flavour. Contrary to this, tomato paste has extended shelf life/storage period even under ordinary conditions. Conversion of tomato into paste provides a way out with a positive outcome both commercially and financially.
Owing to outdated production mode tomato suffers from low yield and loss of paucity of refrigeration facility and poor farm-to-market road infrastructure. Balochistan produces 40 per cent of the total yield, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 30 per cent, while Punjab and Sindh produce the rest of the percentage.
Processing of vegetables and fruit products is yet to be fully exploited. Products, such as tomato paste/puree and fruits pulp have potential demand with local fruit/vegetable processors as well as the retail market. Rise of the fast food industry in the country is also having a significant impact on the demand for tomato and fruit products.
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