This is an indeterminate hybrid tomato 2577, maturity: Medium, fruit weight: 160-180 grams. Large, juicy and tasty fruits. Very productive selection for the hobby greenhouse and outdoors. Sheltered sowing in a seed box at 20 ° C, seed depth 0.5 cm. Plant the young plants in individual pots and grow them further at 15 to 20 ° C in a place with a lot of light. Plant from mid-May (planting distance 70 cm) in the open ground, in the hobby greenhouse, or in the field prepared with nutritious soil. Let the plants, which need a warm and sunny place, climb on a stick. Optimal germination temperature: 20 ° C Average germination time: 5-6 days. Package contents: 5 grams. Seeds per gram: 300. Resistance: Ve, F1, F2, TSMV and
ToMV, excellent fruit color, good taste and aroma, recommended for both greenhouse and open field, fruit Shape: Flattened globe, fruit color: Red
HOW TO PLANT
Harden off seedlings or transplants for a week before planting in the garden. Set young plants outdoors in the shade for a couple of hours the first day, gradually increasing the amount of time the plants are outside each day to include some direct sunlight. Learn more about hardening off seedlings.
Plant transplants about 2 feet apart.
Place tomato stakes or cages in the soil at the time of planting to avoid damaging roots later on. Staking keeps developing tomato fruit off the ground while caging lets the plant hold itself upright.
Pinch off a few of the lower branches on transplants, and plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil.
If your transplants are leggy, you can remedy this by burying up to ⅔ of the plant, including the lower sets of leaves. Tomato stems have the ability to grow roots from the buried stems.
Water well to reduce shock to the roots.
Soil Requirements and Site Preparation
Simona F1 tomatoes can be produced on a variety of soil types. They grow optimally in deep, medium textured sandy loam or loamy, fertile, well-drained soils. Avoid sites that tend to stay wet. Also, rotate away from fields that have had solanaceous crops within the past 3-4 years. Select sites that have good air movement (to reduce disease) and that are free from problem weeds.
In field production, plants depend on the soil for physical support and anchorage, nutrients and water. The degree to which the soil adequately provides these three factors depends upon topography, soil type, soil structure and soil management.
For Simona tomato production, proper tillage is crucial for adequate soil management and optimal yields. Land preparation should involve enough tillage operations to make the soil suitable for seedling or transplant establishment and to provide the best soil structure for root growth and development.
The extent to which the root systems of tomato plants develop is influenced by the soil profile. Root growth will be restricted if there is a hard pan, compacted layer or heavy clay zone. Tomatoes are considered to be deep rooted and, under favorable conditions, some roots will grow to a depth of as much as 10 feet. The majority of roots, however, will be in the upper 12 to 24 inches of soil. Since root development is severely limited by compacted soil, proper land preparation should eliminate or significantly reduce soil compaction and hard pans.
Tillage systems using the moldboard (“bottom” or “turning”) plow prepare the greatest soil volume conducive to vigorous root growth. This allows the development of more extensive root systems, which can more efficiently access nutrients and water in the soil. Discing after moldboard plowing tends to re-compact the soil and should be avoided.
Compaction pans are present in many soils. They are formed principally by machinery and are normally located at or just below plow depths. Although compaction pans may be only a few inches thick, their inhibitory effects on root growth can significantly reduce tomato yields.
If a compaction pan exists just below or near moldboard plow depth, this hard pan can be disrupted by subsoiling to a depth of 16 to 18 inches to allow the development of a more extensive root system. Subsoiling also helps increase water infiltration.
If there is an abundance of plants or plant residues on the soil surface, dicing or mowing followed by dicing is usually advised prior to moldboard plowing. This should be done 6 to 8 weeks ahead of planting to bury residue and allow it to decay. Immediately prior to plastic mulch installation or transplanting, perform final soil preparation and/or bedding with a
rotary tiller, bedding disc or a double disc hiller in combination with a bedding press or leveling board. This provides a crustless, weed-free soil for the installation of plastic mulch or the establishment of transplants.
Tomatoes are usually transplanted into plastic mulch on raised beds. A raised bed will warm up more quickly in the spring and therefore will enhance earlier growth. Since tomatoes do poorly in excessively wet soils, a raised bed facilitates drainage and helps prevent waterlogging in low areas or in poorly drained soils. Raised beds are generally 3 to 8 inches high. Keep in mind, however, that tomatoes planted on raised beds may also require more irrigation during drought conditions.
Cover Crops and Minimum Tillage
Winter cover crops help protect the soil from water and wind erosion. When incorporated into the soil as “green manure,” cover crops contribute organic matter to the soil.
Soil organic matter consists of plant and animal residues in various stages of decay. Organic matter improves soil structure (helps to reduce compaction and crusting), increases water infiltration, decreases water and wind erosion, increases the soil’s ability to resist leaching of many plant nutrients, and releases plant nutrients during decomposition.
Crop windbreaks can aid in crop protection and enhance early growth and yield. Frequency or intervals between windbreaks is dictated by distance between tomato rows, spray or harvest alleyway intervals, land availability and equipment characteristics. For instance, bed arrangements may be such that a windbreak is present between every set of four, six or eight beds. Plant windbreaks perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction. When using a taller growing windbreak such as rye, you can expect the windbreak to be effective to a width of about 10 times its height. For instance, with a rye crop that is 3 feet high, the windbreaks can be effective up to 30 feet apart.
Seeding tomatoes directly into the field is not recommended due to the high cost of hybrid seed and the specific conditions required for adequate germination. Most tomatoes are transplanted to the field from greenhouse-grown plants. Direct seeding has other disadvantages: (1) Weed control is usually much more difficult with direct seeded than with transplanted tomatoes; (2) direct seeding requires especially well made seedbeds and specialized planting equipment to adequately control depth of planting and in-row spacing; (3) because of the shallow planting depth required for tomato seed, the field must be nearly level to prevent seeds from being washed away or covered too deeply with water
transported soil; and (4) spring harvest dates will be at least 2 to 3 weeks later for direct seeded tomatoes.
At 59, 68 and 77 degrees F soil temperature, tomato seed require 14, 8 and 6 days, respectively, for emergence when planted ½ inch deep.
Typically, 5- to 6-week old tomato seedlings are transplanted into the field. As with most similar vegetable crops, container-grown transplants are preferred over bare root plants. Container grown transplants retain transplant growing medium (soil-substitute) attached to their roots after removal from the container (flat, tray). Many growers prefer this type transplant because (1) they are less subject to transplant shock, (2) usually require little, if any, replanting, (3) resume growth more quickly after transplanting, and (4) grow and produce more uniformly. Tomato plants produced in a 1-inch cell size tray are commonly used for transplanting. Many growers will use a 1.5-inch cell tray for transplant production in the fall when transplant stress is greater.
Tomato transplants should be hardened off before transplanting to the field. Hardening off is a technique used to slow plant growth prior to field setting so the plant can more successfully transition to the less favorable conditions in the field. This process involves decreasing water for a short period prior to taking the plants to the field. Research shows that reducing temperatures too drastically to harden tomato transplants can induce catfacing in the fruit.
For maximum production, transplants should never have fruits, flowers or flower buds before transplanting. An ideal transplant is young (6 inches to 8 inches tall with a stem approximately ¼ inch to ⅜ inch in diameter), does not exhibit rapid vegetative growth, and is slightly hardened at transplanting time. Rapid growth following transplanting helps assure a well established plant before fruit development. In most cases, it is more economically feasible to have transplants produced by a commercial transplant grower than to grow them on the farm. When purchasing transplants, be sure the plants have the variety name, have been inspected and approved by a plant inspector, and they are of the size and quality specified in the order.
Set transplants as soon as possible after removing from containers or after pulling. If it is necessary to hold tomato plants for several days before transplanting them, keep them cool (around 55-65 degrees F if possible) and do not allow the roots to dry out prior to transplanting. When setting plants, place them upright and place the roots 3 to 4 inches deep. Setting plants at least as deep as the cotyledons has been shown to enhance plant growth and early fruit production and maturity. Completely cover the root ball with soil to prevent wicking moisture from the soil. Tomatoes grow best if nighttime soil temperatures average higher than 60 degrees F.
At transplanting, apply an appropriate fertilizer starter solution (see Fertilizer Management section). After transplanting (especially within the first 2 weeks) it is very important that soil moisture be maintained so that plant roots can become well established.
Tomatoes can be planted in one of many different arrangements that provide adequate space for plant growth. Often the spacing is based on the type of trellising and equipment that will be used in the field. The within-row and between-row spacings are selected to meet these limitations. The optimal plant population per acre may also be influenced by plant growth habit (compact, spreading), plant size at maturity (small, medium, large), vigor of specific cultivars, climate, soil moisture, nutrient availability, management system and soil productivity.
Generally, for production of determinate varieties on plastic mulch, a minimum of 5 feet between rows is used with an in-row spacing of 18 to 24 inches. Six feet between rows is also a popular interval. To space plants 22 inches apart in rows that are 5 feet apart requires 4,760 plants per acre. With 6-foot centers and 18 inches between plants, 4,840 plants are required per acre. Usually a single row of tomatoes is planted down the center of each plastic mulched bed.
On bare ground, space rows 48 to 72 inches apart with 18 inches to 24 inches between plants in the row. For indeterminate types of tomatoes, which produce larger plants, adjust spacing to decrease the population accordingly.
Staking and Pruning
Most commercial indeterminate tomatoes such as the Simona F1 variety are produced using short stake culture for trellising. This type of culture produces fruits that are higher in quality and easier to harvest and enhances spray coverage. In this system, stakes approximately 4 feet long and ¾ to 1 inch square are placed between every one or two plants depending on the tying system that is employed. Stakes are usually driven about 12 inches into the ground. An additional stake can be supplied at the ends of each section to strengthen the trellis.
Stake plants immediately after planting to minimize damage to the root system and to have the trellis ready when needed. Plants are usually tied initially when they are about 12-15 inches tall and should be tied prior to any plants lodging. The first string is usually placed about 10 inches above the ground. Subsequent tyings are placed about 6 inches above the previous one. Determinate varieties may be tied as many as three to four times.
The Dutch weave system is one method of tying that is often used. In this system, a stake is placed between every other plant in the row. Twine is then used to tie the plants using a figure eight weave. The twine is wrapped around the stake and is pulled tightly on one side of the first plant and then between the two plants and along the other side of the second plant. At the end of the row or section, the pattern is reversed and, as the twine is wrapped around each stake, the twine is then placed on the other side of each plant going back in the opposite direction along the row. This system uses fewer stakes and encloses the plant with the twine. Subsequent tyings often do not weave between plants but simply go along one side of the plants going one way and the opposite side going the other direction.
Another system of tying involves placing a stake after every plant. The twine is then simply wrapped around each stake and along one side of the plant going along the row and around the other side of the plant coming back in the other direction on the opposite side of the row. Regardless of the system used, the twine should be held with enough tension to adequately support the plants. If the twine is too tight, however, it can impede harvest and damage plants and fruit.
Tomato twine should be resistant to weathering and stretching and should not cut into the plants or fruit. It takes about 30 pounds of synthetic twine per acre for tomatoes. A simple tying tool can be made from conduit or PVC pipe that is 2 to 3 feet long. The twine is passed through the pipe to act as an extension of the worker’s arm. This limits the need to stoop over at each stake to wrap the twine. A similar tool can be made from a wooden dowel or narrow wooden strip. With these, a hole is drilled about 1 inch from each end of the piece of wood and the string passed through each hole. This provides the same extension of the hand as the other method.
Indeterminate tomatoes often still require some level of pruning. Pruning is the removal of suckers (axillary shoots). The degree to which pruning is needed will vary with the variety used but can impact yield and quality significantly. Plants that produce vigorous foliage that are not pruned will produce more, but smaller fruit. Pruning helps increase the size of the fruit. It can also enhance earliness of the crown set, reduce pest pressure and enhance spray coverage. In general, pruning will involve removal of one to all suckers up to the first fork (the sucker just below the first flower cluster).
Growers should experiment with individual varieties to determine the degree of pruning needed. Often the seed supplier can provide information on specific varieties regarding pruning. Some varieties require only the removal of ground suckers (at the cotyledons) or none at all. Over pruning can cause reduced yields and increased sunburn, blossom end rot and catfacing. More vigorous varieties may require the removal of ground suckers plus two additional suckers. Remove suckers when they are small (2 to 4 inches long). Removal of large suckers is more time consuming and can damage the plant. Prune before the first stringing to facilitate the process, since the strings may be in the way. A second pruning may be required to remove suckers that were not large enough to remove easily during the first pruning and to remove ground suckers that may have developed. Prune plants when the foliage is dry to reduce the spread of disease.
The use of plastic mulch in the commercial production of staked tomatoes is almost universal. Plastic mulch is used to promote earliness, reduce weed pressure, and to conserve moisture and fertilizer. Most often drip irrigation is used in conjunction with plastic mulch. There are both advantages and disadvantages to producing crops under this system.
Advantages: Plastic mulch promotes earliness by capturing heat, which increases soil temperatures and accelerates growth. Black plastic will prevent the establishment of many in-row weeds. Mulch will reduce fertilizer leaching from tomato beds and will conserve moisture by reducing soil surface evaporation.
Furthermore, where fumigants are used, plastic mulch provides a barrier that increases fumigant efficiency. Plastic mulch also keeps fruit cleaner by reducing soil spatter. When using drip irrigation particularly, disease is often reduced as the foliage stays drier and, again, soil is not splashed onto the plant.
Disadvantages: Specialized equipment is required to lay plastic mulch, which means increased variable costs for custom application or the purchase of this equipment. Yellow and purple nutsedges are not controlled by black plastic mulch, and suitable fumigants/ herbicides must be applied if nutsedge is a potential problem. The cost of plastic removal and disposal is an additional expense.
In most instances, plastic mulch culture has increased yields and returns sufficiently to offset these potential disadvantages.
Bed height and width depend on several factors including soil type, bedding equipment, available plastic, etc. Standard bed heights range from 4 to 8 inches. Bed width is also dictated by equipment and grower preference. Current top widths of beds range from 28 to 36 inches. Ordinarily plastic mulch must be 20 to 24 inches wider than the bed width preferred, so it will cover the sides of the bed and can be tucked under the soil to anchor the plastic. The plastic must fit firmly over the bed to minimize wind movement and facilitate planting. Mulch must be covered at the ends of each bed to prevent wind from getting under the plastic and fumigant from escaping. Any available opening, such as a tear or uncovered tuck, that allows wind entry will cause problems.
Use trickle or drip irrigation with plastic mulch for maximum efficiency. It is still important, however, to have optimum soil moisture during plastic application. The use of overhead irrigation requires punching additional holes in the plastic to facilitate water entry, which compromises the integrity of the plastic and reduces its effectiveness in controlling weeds and minimizing leaching of nutrients.
Land preparation for laying plastic is similar to that described in the prior chapter on culture and varieties. The site should still be deep turned and rototilled. Usually a hipper is used to form a high ridge of soil down the middle of the bed to assure the bed pan is filled with soil. This creates a firm, full bed. The bed pan should leave a bed with a slight crown in the middle that slopes slightly to each side. This prevents water from standing on the plastic or being funneled into the holes and waterlogging the soil. Generally, fumigant is applied as the bed pan passes and plastic is installed just behind the pan. Drip tape is installed at the same time, just in front of the plastic, and should be buried 1 inch below the surface to prevent “snaking” under the plastic and to reduce rodent damage to the tape. Drip tape buried deeper will be difficult to remove and will not wet the upper portion of the root zone. Soil moisture should be good at the time plastic is installed to ensure a good, firm bed.
Fertilizer Management Under Plastic
Apply any needed lime 2 to 3 months ahead of plastic mulch installation. Preplant fertilizer application will vary with bed size and planting scheme. On larger beds (4 feet wide or greater), it is advisable to incorporate all phosphorus and micronutrients into the bed before installing plastic. If drip fertigation is not used, apply all the nitrogen and potassium preplant as well.
If narrower beds are used, preplant application of all the needed fertilizer may cause fertilizer salt toxicity. Sidedressing is required, therefore, by a liquid injection wheel, through drip irrigation, or a banded application outside the tucked portion of the bed.
Most tomatoes are planted where fertigation with drip irrigation is used. In these cases all the phosphorous (P) and micronutrients, and one-third to one-half of the nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) should be incorporated into the bed before the plastic is laid. Apply the remaining N and K through weekly fertigations beginning just after transplant establishment. The rate of application of these fertigations will change with the stage of the crop.
Irrigation is essential to produce consistent yields of high quality tomatoes . Rainfall amounts are often erratic during the growing season, and tomatoes are often grown in sandy soils with low water holding capacity. This combination of factors makes supplemental irrigation necessary for commercial tomato production.
Irrigation studies in the southeast show that irrigation increases annual tomato yields by an average of at least 60 percent over dryland production. Quality of irrigated tomatoes is also much better. Irrigation eliminates disastrous crop losses resulting from severe drought.
Tomatoes are potentially deep rooted, with significant root densities up to 4 feet deep. In Georgia soils, however, the effective rooting depth is generally much less. Actual root depths vary considerably depending upon soil conditions and cultural practices. The effective rooting depth is usually 12 to 18 inches with half of the roots in the top 6 inches. It is important not to allow these roots to dry out or root damage will occur.
Moisture stress in tomatoes causes shedding of flowers and young fruit, sunscalding and dry rot of fruit. The most critical stages for watering are at transplanting, flowering and fruit development.
Several types of irrigation may be used successfully on tomatoes in the southeast. Ultimately, the type chosen will depend on one or more of the following factors:
- Availability of existing equipment
- Field shape and size
- Amount and quality of water available
- Labor requirements
- Fuel requirements
These systems include center pivot, linear move, traveling gun, permanent set and portable aluminum pipe with sprinklers. Any of these systems are satisfactory if they are used correctly. There are, however, significant differences in initial cost, fuel cost and labor requirements.
Any sprinkler system used on tomatoes should be able to deliver at least an inch of water every 4 days. In addition, the system should apply the water slowly enough to prevent run-off. In sandy soils, the application rate should be less than 3 inches per hour. In loamy or clay soils, the rate should not exceed 1 inch per hour.
Sprinkler systems with a high application uniformity (center pivot, linear move and permanent set) can be used to apply fertilizer. This increases the efficiency of fertilizer utilization by making it readily available to the plant and reduces leaching.
Drip irrigation has become the standard practice for tomato production. Although it can be used with or without plastic mulch, its use is highly recommended with plastic mulch culture. One of the major advantages of drip irrigation is its water use efficiency. Studies in Florida indicate that drip irrigated vegetables require 40 percent less water than sprinkler irrigated vegetables. Weeds are also less of a problem, since only the rows are watered and the middles remain dry. Some studies have also shown significant yield increases with drip irrigation and plastic mulch when compared with sprinkler irrigated tomatoes. The most dramatic yields have been attained by using drip irrigation and plastic mulch, and supplementing nutrients by injecting fertilizers into the drip system (fertigation).
Drip tubing may be installed on the soil surface or buried up to about 1.5 inches deep. When used in conjunction with plastic mulch, the tubing can be installed at the same time the plastic mulch is laid. Usually one line of tubing is installed on each bed. A field with beds spaced 5 feet center to center will require 8,712 feet of tubing per acre (one tube per bed). The output rate of the tube is specified by the user. For discussion purposes, however, you can determine the per acre water capacity by multiplying the output rate of the tube (per 1000') by 8.712 (i.e., on a 5' bed spacing a 4.5 gpm/1000' output rate tube will require 39.2 gpm per acre water capacity).
The tubing is available in various wall thicknesses ranging from 3 mils to 25 mils. Most growers use thin wall tubing (10 mils or less) and replace it every year. Heavier wall tubing can be rolled up at the end of the season and reused; however, take care in removing it from the field and store it in a shelter. Labor costs for removing, storing and reinstalling irrigation tubing are often prohibitive.
Excellent results have been achieved by injecting at least half of the fertilizer through the drip system. This allows plant nutrients to be supplied to the field as needed. This method also eliminates the need for heavy fertilizer applications early in the season, which tend to leach beyond the reach of root systems or cause salt toxicity problems. Only water soluble formulations can be injected through the drip systems. Nitrogen and potassium formulations tend to be more water soluble than phosphorous and, consequently, are more easily injected. These nutrients also tend to leach quicker and need to be supplemented during the growing season. Thoroughly flush drip systems following each fertilizer injection.
Water used in a drip irrigation system should be well filtered to remove any particulate matter that might plug the tubing. Test the water for minerals that could precipitate and cause plugging problems.
The combined loss of water by evaporation from the soil and transpiration from plant surfaces is called evapotranspiration (ET). Peak ET rates for tomatoes are about 0.2 inch per day. Factors affecting ET are stage of crop growth, temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind velocity and plant spacing. Transplant tomatoes into moist soil and irrigate with 0.3 to 0.5 inch immediately after transplanting to settle the soil around the roots.
Once a root system is established, maintain soil moisture to the 12-inch depth. The sandier soils in south Georgia have an available water holding capacity of about 1 inch per foot of soil depth. You should not deplete more than 50 percent of the available water before irrigating; therefore, when you use 0.5 inch, it should be replaced by irrigation. Soils having a higher clay content may have water holding capacities as high as 2 inches per foot. In these soils you can deplete as much as 1 inch before irrigating. This means net application amounts should be between 0.5 and 1.0 inch per irrigation. The actual amount applied should be 10 to 20 percent higher to account for evaporation losses and wind drift. The irrigation frequency will depend on daily evapotranspiration. In general, for sprinkler irrigated tomatoes during peak water use periods, sandy soils should receive 0.6 inch two or three times a week, and clay soils should receive 1.25 inches about every 5 days.
Irrigation can best be managed by monitoring the amount of moisture in the soil. This can be done with soil moisture blocks. For best results on tomatoes, maintain soil moisture below 30 centibars. Drip irrigation systems need to be operated more frequently than sprinkler systems. Typically, they are operated every day or every other day. Do not saturate the soil with water, especially when using plastic mulch. Plastic mulch will tend to keep the soil from drying out and tomatoes grow poorly in waterlogged soil.
Several physiological problems can affect tomatoes. Most of these are due to specific adverse environmental conditions. Growers can do some things to help minimize their impact, but in many cases not much can be done. In addition, many of these conditions are not well understood, so corrective action is not always possible.
Blossom-end rot is a calcium deficiency that occurs at the blossom end of the fruit. It is characterized by black, necrotic, sunken tissue at the blossom end. Fruit with necrotic tissue is unsalable and the damage cannot be corrected. Although the tissue is calcium deficient, preplant applications of calcium or postplant applications to correct the disorder often have no effect.
Blossom-end rot develops very early in fruit formation when fruit is smaller than a fingernail, which is a critical time for calcium deposition in newly forming tissue. Calcium is relatively immobile in plants. Once it becomes part of the plant tissue in one location, it cannot be easily moved to new developing tissue. Further, calcium moves in the water stream of the plant’s vascular tissue. So during hot ,dry conditions with high transpiration, calcium uptake may be high but may not be moving laterally into forming fruit. This results in deficiency in these developing tissues even though there is sufficient calcium present in the soil and available to the plant. There is evidence indicating that unstaked and unpruned plants are less likely to have this problem, but in Georgia most tomatoes are staked and pruned for ease of harvest and quality of fresh market fruit.
To a certain extent, this problem can be alleviated with even moisture during plant growth. Wide swings from wet to dry conditions as well as overwatering tend to aggravate this problem. Exogenous applications of calcium as foliar sprays have been suggested to alleviate this problem. Any such application would have to occur prior to visible symptoms when fruit are just forming, but there is little evidence this is an effective practice.
Although tomatoes are warm season vegetables, they require relatively moderate temperatures to set fruit. Nighttime temperatures above 70 degrees F. will cause blossom drop, which in turn will reduce yields.
This problem is solved by planting at that time of year when night temperatures will be below this threshold during flowering and fruiting. Transplanting dates for south Georgia would be from March 1 to April 30 in the spring and from July 15 to August 15 in the fall. In north Georgia this would be from April 15 to June 15 in the spring and it is not recommended that tomatoes be grown in the fall. In addition to planting date, there are “hot set” tomatoes available. These tomatoes have been bred to set fruit under higher temperatures (see Table 1 for varieties). For fall planted tomatoes, hot set types are recommended.
Tomato fruit are prone to cracking under certain circumstances. There are two different types of cracking — radial and concentric — both of which occur at the stem end. Radial cracking is more common and usually occurs during periods of high temperatures (at or above 90 degrees F.) and prolonged rain or wet soil when fruit will rapidly expand and often crack. This is particularly prevalent after a long period of dry weather. This type of cracking is also more prone to occur if fruit are exposed to intense sunlight. Finally, fruit load may also be a factor, with a light load more prone to cracking.
Maintaining even moisture conditions, avoiding excessive pruning, and having a heavy fruit load will help prevent this problem. Variety selection can also help alleviate this problem. Varieties are available that are resistant to cracking. Generally, cracking susceptible varieties will crack when fruit are still in the green stage, whereas resistant varieties often don’t show cracking until later, when the fruit is turning color.
Concentric cracking is also caused by rapid growth, but generally occurs when there are alternating periods of rapid growth followed by slower growth. This can occur with wet/dry cycles or cycles of high and low temperatures. Generally this type of cracking occurs as fruit near maturation. Even moisture throughout the growing period will help alleviate this problem. Also avoid fertilization spikes that encourage cyclic growth.
Catfacing is characterized by distorted growth at the blossom end of fruit, often with rough calloused ridges. Catfacing generally occurs when fruit are formed during cool or humid weather that favors the corolla adhering to the developing fruit. The adhesion of these flower parts causes the distortion that appears as the fruit matures. Usually catfacing is most evident during the first harvest with fruit that was set during cooler temperatures. Planting later and using varieties resistant to catfacing will help prevent this from occurring.
Zippering may be related to catfacing, only the damage occurs in straight lines from the blossom end to the stem end. The line may have a calloused or corky appearance.
Fruit may appear normal or nearly so but, when cut, the locules appear empty. There is little or no fruit gel or seeds present. This usually occurs when fruit develop under conditions that are too cool or too hot (below 55 degrees F or above 90 degrees F.), which interferes with normal seed set. Tomatoes are self-fertile but require some disturbance of the flower in order for the pollen to be shaken onto the stigma. This can occur from insects or wind, or during the normal handling of plants (staking and pruning). Wet, humid and cloudy weather may interfere with insect pollination and the pollen may not shed as readily. Cool weather will slow the growth of pollen tubes. In addition, excess nitrogen appears to be a factor with this condition.
Little can be done to alleviate this problem other than planting at the proper time of year. Hot set varieties appear to be less susceptible to this problem.
Tomato fruit may develop a papery thin area on the fruit that will appear tan or white in color. This is caused by sunscald, where the area affected is exposed to intense sunlight and heat resulting in a breakdown of the tissue. Sunscald may also appear as hard yellow areas on the fruit that are exposed. Maintaining good foliage cover during fruit development and avoiding excessive pruning will minimize this problem.
Graywall or Blotchy Ripening and Internal Browning
Several different factors may contribute to these conditions. Internal browning may be caused by a virus (tobacco mosaic virus; see the disease section). Silverleaf whitefly has also been associated with uneven ripeness in tomatoes (see section on insects).
Graywall and blotchy ripening may occur together and may be caused by a bacteria. The outer wall will appear gray and be partially collapsed. Internally there are necrotic areas within the walls of the fruit. Factors associated with this condition include high nitrogen, low potassium, low temperatures, excessive soil moisture and soil compaction. Addressing these factors may reduce the incidence of this disorder.
Internal White Tissue
Occasionally, a tomato will exhibit white tissue in the crosswalls when cut. This is rarely seen when fruit are harvested at the mature green stage, but it can be a problem with vine ripe fruit. It is unclear what causes this, but adequate potassium fertilizer appears to reduce the problem.
Rain check is the formation of tiny transverse cracks on the fruit. These cracks may heal, forming a rough texture on the fruit; generally these fruit are unmarketable.
As with many of these disorders, it is unclear what causes this, but it is associated with rain events. Heavy rains following dry periods are times when this is most likely to occur. This phenomenon may be related to other types of cracking and may be alleviated with growing conditions that don’t encourage wet/dry cycles.
Fresh tomatoes are the number one crop in terms of farm gate value among all the vegetables grown and harvested in Georgia. Tomatoes should only be harvested when they reach the mature-green stage. If tomatoes are harvested any earlier, the fruit will fail to ripen normally. Since the mature-green state is difficult to judge externally, growers will often take a representative sample of fruit from their fields and cut it open for internal examination. A typical mature-green tomato will have a jelly-like matrix in all locules, and seeds will be sufficiently developed so as not to be cut when the fruit is sliced with a sharp knife.
While a few large commercial tomato operations harvest mature-green tomatoes that will be ripened later with ethylene gas, most Georgia growers wait un-til about 10 percent of their field reaches the “breaker” (pinking at the blossom end) stage of maturity before harvesting. Tomato quality at harvest is primarily based on uniform size and freedom from growth or handling defects. Appearance is a very important quality factor. Tomatoes should have a waxy gloss; small blossom-end and stem-end scars that are smooth; presence of a brown corky tissue at the stem scar; uniform color and minimum size for the variety; and an absence of growth cracks, catfacing, zippering, sunscald, insert injury, hail damage, mechanical injury or bruising.
Size is not typically a factor of grade quality, but it may strongly influence commercial buyers’ expectations. Georgia growers strive to harvest only large and extra-large tomatoes.
Bruising is characterized by water-soaked cellular breakdown of the cross-wall and locular (seed cavity) area. External bruising will be caused if pickers hurl or dump tomatoes too vigorously from the picking bucket into unpadded bulk bins. Bins should never be over-loaded because excessive tomato weight will cause bruise damage due to compression. Harvested tomatoes must be shaded to minimize heat-up while waiting for pallet bin dumping at the packinghouse. Research has shown that bulk bin tomatoes held in the hot sun for just one hour can be as much as 25 degrees F warmer than fruit held in the shade.
Pickers should do preliminary grading to remove decayed fruit from the plants as they harvest the field. This will prevent crossover disease contamination to otherwise healthy, sound fruit. Wet tomatoes should never be harvested, because surface moisture increases field heat accumulations in the load and enhances disease development.
All picking buckets should be cleaned and sanitized at the end of each harvest day to prevent the potential accumulation of disease organisms from infecting sound fruit picked the next production day. Rinse buckets with water to remove soil and field debris, then wash them in a sanitizing solution consisting of 5 oz. of household bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) mixed in 5 gallons of water.
The importance of care in handling tomatoes between the time of harvest and shipping to market cannot be overemphasized, since about half of the cost of tomato production is in the grading, cooling and packing of the product. Bulk bins of harvested tomatoes are taken from the field to the packing house, where they are mechanically unloaded in a water dump tank or concrete pit. Water jets convey the fruit by flume onto an inclined dewatering roller belt with soft bristle brushes that remove field debris. The fruit is then dried, pre-graded, color sorted and sized before being jumble-packed into 25-pound fiberboard cartons.
Mechanical damage (i.e., cuts, punctures, bruises, scars, scuff marks and discolored areas) accounts for more defects at the shipping point and in the market than all other defects combined. Of these, bruises are the most common and serious, comprising about half of all mechanical damage. Bruised tomatoes may be flattened or indented and soft; the locules
Harvesting estimation of the Simona F1 Tomato variety is around 10 pounds of tomatoes for every plant. In any case, for any territory and garden, a farmer of this variety can gather or yield 50 to 80 pounds for each plant.
Fresh market tomatoes are harvested by hand. The harvesting operation varies somewhat among growers. Mature-green harvested tomatoes are placed into polyethylene picking buckets that are carried to a flatbed trailer where the fruit is dumped into plastic bulk bins. Each bin holds between 800 and 1,200 pounds of fresh fruit, and the trailer is positioned in the field so pickers only have to walk a minimal distance to reach a bin. Once all bins are loaded, they are transported to a centralized packinghouse where the fruit is washed, sized and packed out. Some growers avoid use of bulk bins because of potential damage to the fruit and field pack tomatoes into boxes. Some growers also combine the two approaches, with field packing of “pinks” (tomatoes that have begun changing color) and bulk harvesting of mature green tomatoes.
Good harvesting management is needed to pick high quality tomatoes. Care must be taken when harvesting “breaker” stage fruit because the riper the tomato, the more susceptible it is to bruising. Harvest crews should carefully place fruits into picking containers instead of dropping them. Research has demonstrated that a drop of more than 6 inches onto a hard surface can cause internal bruising that is not evident until after the tomato is cut open.
either are dry or, if gelatinous tissue is present, it may be thick and stringy from continuous pressure or watery from severe impacts.
When tomatoes are physically injured during handling, disease organisms can easily invade the flesh, setting up decay. As shown in Table 9, decay due to bruising was the greatest contributor to tomato loss in marketing channels
Tomatoes are scuffed and scarred when they rub against rough surfaces, such as bin boxes, puckout cartons, dirty sorting belts, or even against each other, particularly when dirty. Tomatoes below about 60 degrees F scuff more easily than warm fruit. Scuffing and scarring are followed by pitting and browning, because the injured tissue dries out.
Tomatoes may be bruised any time between field and kitchen by being (1) thrown into picking box or bin; (2) pressed out of shape in a bin loaded too deeply; (3) dumped too vigorously from box or bin onto sorting belt, or dropped too far from sorting belt to shipping container; (4) squashed during stacking, loading or in transit; (5) handled roughly during sorting in the ripening room or during prepacking; (6) dumped into bulk retail display; or (7) squeezed in the hand of the customer or between harder items in the grocery bag.
External bruising mainly occurs before the fruit is packed, which allows the removal of most of the damaged fruit at origin. Internal bruising, however, occurs mainly during or after packing. The riper the fruit, the more readily it bruises. Degree of bruising under given conditions is not related to size, weight or mass of fruit in any one cultivar, however, although the latter do differ in their susceptibility to bruising.
Mechanical injury can be prevented, or at least reduced, only by careful analysis of each step during handling and by devising ways to minimize throwing, dropping or squeezing the fruit. Where drops are unavoidable, padding with 1-inch thick foam rubber substantially reduces injury. Avoid drops of 6 inches or more, whether the fruits hit a solid object or each other. Dumping fruit into water instead of directly onto a belt can help reduce bruising.
Scuffing and scarring can be minimized by keeping boxes, bins and belts clean and by packing fruit firmly but not too tightly. A loose pack allows fruits to rotate and rub against each other in transit, which leads to scuffing injury.
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