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Finding sustainable solutions for food security - How to grow tomatoes
 
Tomatoes should be every gardener's friend. They are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium and in Lycopene that help prevent diseases and cancer. Tomatoes belong to the Solanum lycopersicum family of plants that forms part of the nightshade family. Tomatoes originated in the Americas and from their spread around the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that requires a watchful eye and some special measures. But they are rewarding to grow and always add some color and foliage to any vegetable garden.

Planting Tomatoes
Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow. The biggest challenge for growing tomatoes is to keep all the pests and diseases at bay. More about that later.

* When planting tomato seedlings dig a hole that will accommodate two-thirds of the length of the seedling below the soil surface.
* In the bottom of the hole, add compost, a balanced fertilizer or aged or composted animal manure. Be careful when using raw manure. Bone meal or kelp meal can also be added to the hole. Mix the fertilizer manure or compost in the bottom of the hole with some of the surrounding soil. Put the seedling in the hole with its roots resting on your “mixture”.
* Fill the rest of the hole with soil, and water thoroughly. The reason for planting tomatoes so deep is to allow the roots to form along the stem that will increase nutrient uptake that will allow for better growth.
* It is helpful in preventing soil borne disease from spreading to the plant by putting a piece of cardboard around the base of the plant. Take a piece of cardboard, cut a hole in the center and put it over the plant so that the plant is centered in the hole. Cover the cardboard with mulch. Mulch could be any dead organic material. When using drip irrigation the use of plastic liners is useful. This additionally serves the purpose of preventing the loss of moisture from the soil by evaporation.
* Tomatoes are prolific growers. Have a stake or a wire “cage” at hand. Certain tomato varieties reach up to 8 feet and need to be stringed. Provide for some kind of overhead support structure for tying the strings too if you plant these varieties.

 
 
Organic tomatoes harvested from our garden turned into tomato stew,
and then frozen to be used later.
 
Tomatoes are grown commercially near Kruisrivier, Uitenhage. The tomato plants are supported by stringing rope horizontally on both sides of the plant. The ropes are tied to spokes planted every few feet apart. Plants are watered by means of drip irrigation.

Tomato Diseases
Tomatoes are prone to a multitude of diseases that can drive any gardener and small scale farmer up the wall. Even commercial tomato farmers that have access to all the tricks in the book are not spared the rod of these diseases and pests. Following are a few photos of some of the common diseases as well as a comprehensive list of diseases that affect tomatoes.
 
Examples of Common Tomatoes Diseases
anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes ) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum ) - 1236163
Antrachnose
Image Credit: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org
bacterial speck (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum ) - 1568046
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Edward Sikora, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

Tomatoes: Fruit Symptoms by Pathogen Group or Other Causes
Information and Links: Cornell University Department of Plant Pathology 

Bacterial
Canker
Speck
Spot

Fungal
Alternaria stem canker (Black Mold)
Anthracnose
Early blight
Gray mold
Powdery mildew (Leveillula)-does not directly infect fruit
Powdery mildew (Oidium)-does not directly infect fruit
Septoria
Target spot
White mold

Oomycetes
Buckeye rot
Late blight
Pythium fruit rot

 

Virus
Alfalfa mosaic
Cucumber mosaic
Potato leafroll
Tobacco etch
Tobacco (Tomato) mosaic
Tobacco mosaic single streak Tobacco mosaic & potato virus X-double streak
Tomato spotted wilt

Viroids
Tomato planta macho

Phytoplasma
Tomato big bud

Pre-Post Harvest Rots
Rhizoctonia soil rot
Sour rot
Trichothecium rot

Physiological/Weather

Blossom end rot
Catface
Concentric rings-growth cracks
Radial rings-growth cracks
Hail
Puffiness
Sunscald
Weather checking
Yellow shoulder
Zippering
Damage From:
Glyphosate injury
Spray Mixture Damage
(Difolatan & sevin & parathion)

Stinkbug-cloudy spot
Lygus plant bug
Thrips
Hornworm
Broad mite
Whitefly
Undetermined etiology-Graywall
Unknowns

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